Gay Pride: a tale of two cities

Sun. June 14, 2009 12:00 AM by Carlos Santoscoy

The best gauge of the temperature on gay and lesbian rights is the mood at the annual Gay Pride parade and festival. Two festivals this weekend produce contradictory readings.

In Boston, the atmosphere is absolutely exuberant as Massachusetts celebrates its fifth year of legalized gay marriage and recent wins by its New England neighbors Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Connecticut.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court ordered the state in 2003 to legalize gay marriage after finding a state ban unconstitutional. Social conservatives decried the ruling, calling it an "activist" judgment and rallied for the Legislature to bring the issue to a vote.

Opponents came close, but lawmakers were reticent about altering the Massachusetts Constitution. Five years on, the debate remains hot, though on a low flame.

Surveys currently suggest Massachusetts voters would reject a gay marriage ban. That majority continues to build – and is expected to accelerate as neighboring states adopt gay marriage – and because it would take several years for a constitutional amendment to reach the ballot box, the right of gay men and lesbians to marry appears safe in the state.

Over the past several years Boston Gay Pride organizers have begun shifting their focus away from gay marriage. This year's theme is "Trans-forming our Community," which dovetails with transgender protection legislation currently before lawmakers.

"It's about time that we stand up and stand behind our trans families, our transgender allies and friends and colleagues and coworkers and neighbors," Boston City Council President Mike Ross recently said.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles' Gay Pride is certain to be marred with the ghost of Proposition 8, the 2008 voter-approved measure that banned gay marriage and was recently upheld by the California Supreme Court as constitutional. Gay activists have vowed to return in 2010 with a new measure that would reestablish gay marriage in the Golden State.

While LA Gay Pride 2008 surrendered to last year's gay marriage victory, a year later 40,000 revelers will set aside a star-studded party featuring Fantasia, Expose and Deborah Cox for a moment of silence, a moment to remember the loss.

In LA there is little room for any other GLBT issue. The mood is somber in the gay community, a fact not lost on Gay Pride marketers who ask "Inequality got you down?" in a promotional video. "LIFT YOURSELF UP! With Pride 365," the video suggests, and ends with a "NO H8" protester.

Two cities, two Gay Pride parades, two coasts, and two outcomes: Massachusetts moves forward on new challenges after securing the right to marry, while the fight for marriage equality in California continues down a winding path with no end in sight.

Welcome to Gay Pride 2009, as divided as the nation on gay marriage.

Article provided in partnership with On Top Magazine