Mayor Rahm Emanuel Leads Chicago’s 42nd Annual Gay Pride Parade

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Leads Chicago’s 42nd Annual Gay Pride Parade

The 42nd Annual Chicago Gay Pride Parade kicked off from the northside Lakeview neighborhood at noon on Sunday, led by Chicago’s new mayor, Rahm Emanuel. It was the first time in a long time that a sitting mayor has appeared in the parade, a salute to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. An animated Rahm Emanuel marched directly behind the parade’s lead banner and platoon of police on horseback. Dressed casually in a light blue shirt, white jeans, tennis shoes and black shades, Emanuel brought the crowd to a roar as he stopped to high-five a little girl and hoisted a young boy over the metal barricade for a peck on the cheek.

Emanuel is a regular at the parade, having appeared at the festivities almost every year while he served in Congress. He has been a relentless advocate of gay causes, including HIV/AIDS funding, civil unions and gay marriage. Joining him in the parade was Governor Pat Quinn, who recently signed the Illinois civil union legislation, as Illinois became the sixth state to allow civil unions or their equivalent, giving same-sex couples the same state-level rights that come with marriage.

The parade usually draws around a half-million celebrants, but coming right on the heels of winning the long-sought right for same-sex couples to enter into civil unions and the historic passage of the New York bill allowing same sex marriage Friday night, this parade swelled to an estimated attendance of 750,000, which was likely a record number of rainbow-clad spectators.

Viewers can read a short history of the gay rights movement in Illinois here.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Leads The 42nd Annual Chicago Gay Pride Parade

Chicago’s 2010 Gay Pride Parade

The Chicago Gay Pride Parade Celebration

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Be Proud: The 2010 Chicago Gay Pride Parade

Be Proud: The 2010 Chicago Gay Pride Parade

An eclectic mix of stars, The Stanley Cup with Blackhawks defenseman Brent Sopel, the Chicago Cubs’ Ernie Banks, country singer Chely Wright and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn basked in the celebration of an estimated 500,000 people who attended the 41st Annual Pride Parade in Chicago’s North-Side Lakeview neighborhood.  Sopel, who stood on the Chicago Gay Hockey Association’s colorful float, said that he was participating in the parade to honor the memory of his former general manager’s gay son.

Spectators and the half-million parade participants alike provided a deafening roar of welcome to the Stanley Cup and ex-Blackhawks defenseman Brent Sopel as the Chicago Gay Pride Parade kicked off promptly at noon on Sunday.  Led by Grand Marshal country music sensation Chely Wright, the parade proceeded without any difficulties or delays.

The close to five hundred thousand revelers lined the streets of Halsted and Broadway on the hot, humid June afternoon.  A mixture of sun and clouds was welcome, following the heavy morning thunderstorms that threatened to dampen the event.  Illinois gay Congressman Mike Quigley stated: “When a professional hockey organization like the Blackhawks joins in our celebration of gay pride, that really opens doors.  The barriers are down.”

In addition to the Stanley Cup, the Chicago Cubs also had a float in the parade with All-Star Ernie Banks representing the Cubs.  Laura Ricketts, one of the new owners of the Cubs, is a lesbian.  “The unique thing about this parade is that finally, the Chicago Cubs are here, the Blackhawks are here.  Not that we really need recognition of that kind, but the fact of having major league sports teams joining our parade is a great thing,” Chicago’s openly gay Alderman Tom Tunney said.  “That’s probably the unique difference about today.”

State Representative Greg Harris (D-IL) echoed the comment about the Cubs and Blackhawks, saying  “This time next year I hope to be celebrating marriage equality in Illinois.”  Politicians by the dozens walked and rode in the parade.  Over 300 floats and marching groups made up the three hours long trail, which started at Halsted and Belmont and ended at Diversey and Broadway.

Chicago’s 2010  Gay Pride Parade

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The Chicago Gay Pride Parade Celebration

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