Pride paints the capital

Capital City Pride Parade: Anti-gay protest doesn’t simmer support for ‘exuberant,’ ‘friendly’ event

rboone@theolympian.comJune 11, 2012 

The 21st annual Capital City Pride Parade showed no signs of a hangover from last year’s 20th anniversary celebration as thousands once again lined Capitol Way, mostly around Sylvester Park, to support and celebrate the gay, lesbian and transgender community.

The weekend pride festival and parade continues to grow and likely gained even more support this year after members of the Westboro Baptist Church, known for its extreme anti-gay views, protested at Olympia High School last week.

That protest was met by a counter-protest of Olympia High School students, staff and community members.

The confrontation, plus an upcoming vote on same-sex marriage this fall, probably helped draw an even bigger crowd to the parade and weekend’s festivities, said Tony Sermonti, a past chair and co-chair of the event.

“It’s hate that we still have to combat,” said Sermonti about last week’s Westboro protest.

The weekend festival and parade is big enough now that it draws people from outside the area, such as from Portland and Seattle, and fills area hotels, Sermonti added.

Those in the parade gathered on the Capitol Campus before noon, then the parade roared to life as a group of women aboard Harley-Davidsons and Italian scooters raced down Capitol Way to kick off the parade.

They were followed by gay-straight youth organizations, local churches showing support for marriage equality, the Rainy City Roller Dolls, Tacoma Trauma, a women’s pro football squad, and several political groups and candidates running in upcoming elections.

Among those watching the parade were Judith and Rob Brainerd of Olympia. The Brainerds said the parade is fun, colorful, exuberant and friendly.

“This area is so accepting of diversity, for the most part,” Judith Brainerd said. She said “for the most part” because of last week’s Westboro protest. She was proud that her daughter, an Olympia High School student, took part in the counter protest.

Sawyer Courtney of Olympia, who attended the parade with his 18-month-old daughter, Leighton Jean, wanted to show his support for “being equal,” he said.

He said this country is quick to separate and label people based on their beliefs, but “you have the right to be whoever you are.”

“America is messed up right now, so coming together like this is OK,” he said. “There are better times to come, for sure.”

Sue Jacobsen of Olympia, who brought her 6-year-old Boxer, Lexie, to the festivities, said she just loves a parade. She regularly attends the Capital City Pride Parade, as well as other events in Olympia throughout the year.

“We have a lot of good things in Olympia,” Jacobsen said.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 @rolf_boone

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