Pittsburgh celebrates Gay Pride

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The streets of Downtown Pittsburgh were filled with love, support, diversity and fun at the 2014 Pittsburgh Pride celebration held June 6-15.

The Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, one of the city’s leading advocacy organizations for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender individuals, organized the weeklong event, which dawned the theme “Be Brave.”

But this year, with the May 20 ruling that found the ban on same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania to be unconstitutional, making Pennsylvania the 19th state to legalize same-sex marriage, the Pride celebration meant a little more to so many people.

“With it (the legalization of same-sex marriage) being so recent and states dropping barriers with marriage equality, I felt it important to attend and celebrate,” said David Lawson, of Morgantown, W.V. “There’s great energy here, you can just feel the comradery and everybody’s just really connected. I love it.”

Several major festivities for the weeklong celebration included an interfaith Pride Worship Service and Buffet hosted by Community House Presbyterian Church & Learning Center; an exclusive Splash party held at the home of Steve Herforth and Peter Karlovich in Mt. Washington; a Pub Crawl featuring 14 of the city’s LGBT friendly bars, lounges and clubs; Pride in the Street featuring the legendary singer, songwriter, author, activist, actress and producer and Queen of Funk, Chaka Khan; Pride March, a caravan of more than 130 LGBT organizations, community groups and politicians marching from Grant Street and the Boulevard of the Allies to Liberty Avenue; and the culmination event of PrideFest featuring gay country music artist Steve Grand.

Christine Bryan, director of marketing and development for the Delta Foundation, said they were pleased with this year’s celebration and that there was a record number attending and participating. She said approximately 100,000 people attended Pride this year, compared to 75,000 in 2013.

When asked if she thought this year’s celebration was more special due to the recent recognition of marriage equality, Bryan said, “Absolutely. I think we had people who hadn’t attend in years, come out and celebrate.”

Geraye Davis, a Hill District resident who attended the Pride festivities with her girlfriend, said she was happy to see all the support being shown.

“I’m here to support everybody who’s around me. I wasn’t sure about how I could come about it, being gay, and telling my mom, but having friends and a girlfriend helps me. I just wanna support everybody else, like I got the support.”

Davis said she and her girlfriend have been engaged for a long time, and that with the recent legalizing of same-sex marriage, they plan to marry by the end of the summer.

“I love that supporters brought their kids to support, because usually people keep their kids away from gays, this shows them (the kids) that they can be free at whatever they want,” she also said.
Kenya Crawford, a student and research assistant who has attended Pride celebrations in other cities, traveled from Philadelphia to attend the city’s celebration. “I’ve never been before and I’ve been to other prides, and I wanted to see what Pittsburgh had in store. It seems really nice and I’m enjoying it. It’s one of the best prides I’ve been to.

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Devonte and Ray Milligan say their vows as Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto officiates, They were one of 2 Black same sex couples to get married in city council chambers during the Pittsburgh Pride celebration. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

While the Pride celebration was not only fun and entertaining, it was also history making with the event’s first-ever wedding ceremony taking place. On June 15, Devonte and Ramon Milligan, of the Hill District and Mt. Oliver, said their I Do’s among 18 other same-sex couples at a wedding ceremony officiated by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto at the City Council Chambers.

“We had people around us who appreciated what was going on. The group thing made it more historical and it validated everything else that went along with us dedicating and sharing our love with one another,” Ramon Milligan said. “It was a whole ensemble of love. It was really what the gay community gives-a whole bunch of love.”

He said that when he first heard the news about the legalizing of same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania it was “exhilarating because it let me know we didn’t have to leave our own home (state) to be who we were. It was a blessing.”

Devonte Milligan, who said he feels more accepted by the community than his own family for being a Black gay male, was thankful for the support showed during Pride.

He said, “I couldn’t get my loved ones to accept it, but yet everybody else around me is happy for me. Honestly, with everybody’s support and everybody in the parade, it just made me forget about everyone else who doesn’t support me. I have a new family now.”

After the ceremony, the couples celebrated their nuptials at a reception held at the Fairmont Pittsburgh Hotel.

Devonte Milligan said, “For once, for this entire day I didn’t feel judged. I didn’t feel like anyone was disrespectful. Everyone was just happy and accepting; the way everyone should be.”

For more information on Pride events taking place in other cities, visit http://www.pittsburghpride.org.

(J.L. Martello contributed to this article.)

 

 

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