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Mother Nature shines on 49th Pride Parade
More to come
by Matt Simonette

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Hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans and out-of-towners lined the streets of Lakeview and Uptown for the 49th annual Chicago Pride Parade the afternoon of June 24.

Police officials did not yet have attendance figures at the time of publication, but estimates have suggested the crowd measured about one million spectators for the last several years,

Those spectators could not have asked for better weather on June 24; after several days of rain and clouds in Chicago, sunny skies returned for Pride weekend and temperatures remained in the 70s for the afternoon of the parade.

Community organizations, city agencies, educational and religious institutions, labor unions and LGBT groups from major corporations were among those taking part. Organizers were limited to 150 parade entries, and kicked off from the corner of Broadway and Montrose Avenue shortly after noon. The final float crossed the starting point at about 2:45 p.m.

The parade was headed up by members of Scouts for Equality, an organization working to ensure that precepts of equality are carried out within the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), which, at least in units not affiliated with non-affirming faith-based organizations, no longer discriminates against LGBT adults. Cate Readling, vice-president of membership of the BSA's Pathway to Adventure Council, noted that BSA had recently begun admitting girls as well.

"We're all official now," Readling said.

The Scouts were followed up by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who briefly spoke alongside Alds. Tom Tunny (44th Ward) and James Cappleman (46th). In his remarks, Emanuel spoke of the city's "inclusivity" and "belief in equality and tolerance."

With both federal midterm and state gubernatorial elections in November, and a city election in early 2019, politicians were out in full force.

J.B. Pritzker (D), who is challenging incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) in November, said, "We're [at] a time when Donald Trump has put rights at risk. He has stood up against trans rights and LGBTQ rights, and he stood against children by putting them in detention, children who are here emigrating with their families, separating them. At a time when it feels like government has become an instrument of immorality, I think we need a governor who will stand up for the LGBTQ community and the immigrant community and not be silent in the face of Donald Trump's attacks."

"We've got to stand together so we can all stand for the planet," said Cameron Davis, formerly President Barack Obama's "Great Lakes czar," who is running for a commissioner's post for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD). "It doesn't get any simpler than that."

Sean Casten, a Democrat who is running against incumbent Peter Roskam (R) in the 6th Congressional District, added, "We are going to come through this horrible time, because there is more love in the world than there is hate, and today we can stay focused on that."

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said, "I think it's important in these times that those of us who are despised minorities in our own country stick together. So I always try to come to this parade and I'm encouraged by the warm reception that I get."

Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th Ward) said that the parade is "not just a celebration but our annual call to arms to defend all required acceptances in our own communities. So I'm glad to be here with our brothers and sisters, making that call for acceptance one more time."

State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) said, "LGBT people got their rights when we stood up and fought up and fought back against oppression at Stonewall. This country, under Trump, is seeing oppression unlike what we've seen before, not only for LGBT people, but for our immigrant communities and people of color [as well]. We need to stand together in solidarity."

Other politicians who either attended and/or sent delegations included U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley (D-6th), Robin Kelly (D-2nd) and Jan Schakowsky (D-9th); Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs; state Comptroller Susana Mendoza; Democratic state Reps. Kelly Cassidy, Sara Feigenholtz and Juliana Stratton (running with Pritzker); City Clerk Anna Valencia; and Deb Mell was among several other aldermen marching. Mayoral candidates included Lori Lightfoot (marching with her wife), Paul Vallas, Dorothy Brown, Gary McCarthy and Ja'Mal Green. MWRD Board President Maryana Spyropulos and MWRD Commissioners Debra Shore and Kari Steele also attended, as did Cook County Commission candidate Kevin Morrison and Berwyn School Board Member Julia McAleer-Forte.

Orlando "El Fenomeno" Cruz, the first openly gay active professional boxer, was grand marshal.

Educational institutions participating included Nettelhorst School; Chicago Waldorf School; Francis W. Parker School & Catherine Cook School; Elmhurst College; Rush University; Truman College and other City Colleges; University of Illinois at Chicago; University of Chicago; and Northwestern University. Among local consulates participating were Australia (for the first time), Ireland, Great Britain, Canada and Israel.

Advocacy organizations and agencies included American Veterans for Equal Rights (carrying their large American flag), ACLU of Illinois, Asians and Friends Chicago, La Casa Norte, Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus, PFLAG, Night Ministry, Lambda Legal, Equality Illinois, Planned Parenthood, Chicago Gender Society (marching with Heels & Hardhats), The Legacy Project, LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois, Howard Brown Health, TPAN, Project VIDA; Thresholds, About Face Theatre, Windy City Performing Arts, Chicago Gay Men's Chorus, Center on Halsted,, AARP of Illinois, the National Gay Pilots Association, Human Rights Campaign, Mercy for Animals and the Obama Foundation.

Lakeside Pride had dozens of its members performing during the parade. Also working hard were ROTC, Chicago Spirit Brigade and the Second City Outlaws dancing cowboys.

There were three motorcycle groups this year, but not Dykes on Bikes: Bikes & Mics, Chicago Gay Bikers and Organized Chaos all powered through the route.

Gay Liberation Network's large contingent was largely focused on Palestinian rights for their entry.

Both professional and amateur sports teams and organizations were represented, among them Chicago Cubs, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Fire, Chicago Dragons, Chicago Smelts, Chicago Gay Hockey Association and Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association. Local businesses included Sidetrack, Roscoe's, Balloons by Tommy, Evanston Subaru in Skokie, Broadway in Chicago, GRAB and Goose Island Beer.

Dozens of area churches took part in Chicago Welcoming Churches' entry, shouting, "God is love" as they traversed the parade route. Persons from Chicago-area synagogues also marched together.

Labor Unions and trade organizations included Chicago Women in Trades, Local 881 United Food and Commercial Workers, Chicago Teachers Union, United Here Local 1 and SEIU Illinois.

Among corporations represented by their LGBT groups were MB Financial Bank, Discover Financial Services, Bank of America, ComEd, Anheuser-Busch, Gap, Bloomingdales, Salesforce, Macy's, Boeing, American Airlines, United Airlines, Hyatt Hotels, Hilton Hotels, Facebook, Google, Johnson & Johnson, Chipotle, WGN, Fox 32, ABC 7, NBC 5, Univision, Deloite, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile and Pepsico.

MWRD Commisioner Debra Shore, shortly before the parade started, commented on how the LGBT community cuts across every sector of society, especially in terms of "race, class and gender," adding, "That's why it's so important for us to stand up for others and for them to see us stand together in all our diversity."

For the full parade lineup see: .

The video playlist below contains multiple videos. Choose Playlist in the top left hand corner to watch videos out of order, if preferred.

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