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Wedding float is highlight of Utah Pride parade in S.L.

50,000 or more show up for gay celebration day

Published: Tuesday, June 15 2004 1:07 p.m. MDT

Shea Pickelner performs a cheer at the Utah Pride parade in downtown Salt Lake City Sunday afternoon.

Chris Bergin, Deseret Morning News

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Beauty queens — male and female — were among those who took to the streets of downtown Salt Lake City Sunday for the annual Utah Pride parade and festival.

The event, hosted by the GLBT Community Center of Utah, was a day of celebration for thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Utahns and their straight allies.

But the float that was perhaps most telling of the atmosphere was adorned with two same-sex couples — one male, both in tuxedos; one female, both in wedding gowns.

Many in the crowd wore stickers with the slogan "Don't Amend," signaling their opposition of a proposed state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, which is already outlawed by state law.

If voters approve the amendment this November, it would also prevent other relationships, such as civil unions, from being granted the same rights as marriage.

"We already have enough discrimination. We don't need any more," said Ricky Rivera, 36, who marched in the parade as a "Spartan" cheerleader. "We didn't choose to be gay, but we are. Marriage . . . should be everyone's choice."

Howard Johnson, 49, said he's been to every Utah Pride since the festival started more than two decades ago and thinks this year's is perhaps the most political. When asked if he thought the amendment could be defeated, he replied: "I'd like to think it could. But this is Utah."

Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, who sponsored the constitutional amendment, could not be reached for comment Sunday. He has said that amending the constitution is necessary to keep the state's existing marriage laws safe from legal challenges.

A few anti-gay protesters showed up to heckle the crowds, but they were largely outnumbered by those celebrating gay pride. The estimated attendance of 50,000 to 60,000 people made this year's observance the largest in its 21 official years, said Erin Litvack, fund development director for the GLBT Center.

Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson had a float in the parade. The grand marshal was WordPerfect co-founder Bruce Bastian, who has donated $250,000 to the Don't Amend Alliance campaign against the amendment.

Following the parade, the festival kicked off, with live music, a political stage, a family area, and about 100 booths — from religion to politics to vendors.

"There's never been a more important time to be politically active . . . than right now," Anderson told a small gathering at the political stage. "This isn't about marriage. . . . This is about the rights of every single person in this state."

Rep. Jackie Biskupski, D-Salt Lake, told the audience that with marriage comes more than 1,000 state and federal rights, such as inheritance and the ability to visit a partner in the hospital.

Sarah Pott, 20, a University of Utah student, was one of more than 150 volunteers with Don't Amend asking people to sign a petition to vote against the amendment and registering people to vote.

"I don't think it's right for the government to discriminate against any group of people for any reason," she said.


E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com

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