The rainbow flags were waving jubilantly on Broadway in downtown Tacoma Saturday as if to celebrate both a brilliant summer afternoon and a remarkable landmark year for the South Sound’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Hundreds of celebrants moved among the booths, entertainment stages and food vendors greeting friends, making new acquaintances and enjoying the music at Out in the Park, the LGBT community’s annual public festival.
Saturday afternoon’s event was part of a multi-day festivity designed to celebrate the community’s diversity, its connections and the political progress made in the past year.
Some four dozen vendors were present. LGBT advocacy groups, banks, drugstores, law firms, unions and the normal summer festival complement of chiropractors and hospitals lined Broadway from South Ninth Street to South 11th Street.
If the exemplary weather provided reason to celebrate Saturday, so did the LGBT community’s achievements both locally and nationally in the past 12 months.
Most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and let stand a lower court’s ruling striking down California’s Proposition 8, which prohibited same-sex marriage in that state.
Closer to home, Washington residents voted last fall to allow same-sex marriage in passing Referendum 74. A few months later, The Advocate magazine named Tacoma the gayest city in America.
And coming soon will be a new LGBT community center in Tacoma.
The year’s events were the topic of much discussion at some of the festival booths.
At The American Military Partner Association booth, festival-goers heard how the military has moved swiftly to give same-sex spouses the same benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex spouses of soldiers.
The Supreme Court’s striking down of DOMA has given those same-sex spouses the access to medical care, base facilities and housing that had previously been denied, said representatives of the group.
At the Greater Seattle Business Association booth, Randy Bowren, the organization’s office and events coordinator, said the business group considers the past year a time of great progress for its constituency and the citizenry as a whole. The association is the largest local LGBT business association in the country.
The approval of same-sex marriage in 13 states was a large step toward equality for the LGBT community, he said, but the organization will continue to join with others to get marriage redefined in the remaining 37 states.
The association not only works for equality for all, he said, it provides networking opportunities for its 1,009 members.
A new venture for the association is an LGBT visitor center opening Friday. The association actively promotes gay travel to the Pacific Northwest, he said.
At the Washington State Federation of State Employees booth, members of the union’s LGBT committee promoted the union and its efforts to ensure equal treatment in the workplace.
Attitudes among co-workers can vary by age, said Kimberly Cogswell, an LGBT committee member.
“People under 30 are completely comfortable with LGBT co-workers,” she said. Some workers older than 50 are taking a while to adjust, she said.
While the Out in the Park festivities ended Saturday evening, Pride Week events continue Sunday through Wednesday.
On Sunday, a fundraising event for the Oasis Youth Center will take place in private homes and at the Pantages Theater.
The Grand Cinema is presenting its Tacoma Pride Week Film Series Monday through Wednesday. The three films (“Kiss Me,” “Melting Away” and “Interior. Leather Bar”) feature characters who identify as gay, lesbian and transgender.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663