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Gays Go All-Out At Parade About 1,000 Celebrate, Commemorate Ongoing Fight For Equal Treatment

This dog was dressed for a big outing.

Chance the Dalmatian sported a T-shirt decorated with pins, an upside-down triangle and a message: “Be Proud - Pride Equals Power.”

One pin proclaimed: “I’m gay. Don’t worry, it’s not contagious.” Another screamed: “I can’t even keep a straight face.”

Neither could Nicole Montano, who safetypinned the shirt on her dog Sunday morning.

Montano showed up for the fifth annual Pride March with a shirt proclaiming “Freedom to love.”

“This is great,” she said. “Unity’s great.”

So was the weather and the turnout Sunday afternoon, when an estimated 1,000 people marched through downtown Spokane streets to Riverfront Park.

The march celebrated gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender pride. Participants waved ribbons, held banners, yelled and chanted. In front of Nordstrom, they yelled, “We’re here. We’re queer. And we go shopping.”

The crowd was peppered with people and dogs of all ages and fashion statements. A 2-week-old baby was pushed in a stroller. A 90-year-old great-grandmother was pushed in a wheelchair. People marched on Rollerblades, bicycles and in green velvet and high heels.

Tina Louise Sapphire Dior was a cross-dressing vision in blue sequins and rhinestones.

Dior is this year’s elected empress of Spokane’s Imperial Court, part of a national philanthropic network that raises millions of dollars for different causes. On Sunday afternoon, Dior was a minor celebrity, drawing cameras and children who wanted to touch the queen of the show.

“Everyone deserves equal rights,” Dior said. “If I could, I’d like to get rid of one word in the dictionary - ‘minority.’ It needs to go.”

Nancy Wildshoe held a dozen tangled pink balloons and a broken Spokane Chiefs hockey stick with a homemade gay pride sign tacked on one end. Her partner, Betty Snakeskin, hoisted a flag fashioned out of a kitchen towel and a broom handle.

They marched with their 4-year-old daughter, who cried that she was hungry.

“There’s not that many Native Americans marching, so we’re trying to encourage our young people to come out,” Snakeskin said. “We want them to know that there are others out there.”

Shaz Tompkins said she wants to change prejudiced attitudes in Spokane. She rolled her wheelchair through the march with a close friend’s daughter on her lap. Tompkins is helping raise the little girl.

“What’s your mommy?” asked the little girl’s mother, a lesbian who feared her family’s threats if she gave her name.

“I can’t say it,” whispered the girl, wrinkling her face.

“That’s my kid,” her mother said. “That’s my kid and she can’t even say it because everyone says it’s wrong. I just think people need to stop being so afraid.”

Ask a question in this crowd and prick a history of hurt, of lost jobs and lost benefits, of failed marriages and splintered families, of political apathy and teen suicide.

One woman’s 13-year-old son wouldn’t march with her.

“He’s afraid he’s going to get ridiculed,” she said, holding one corner of a gay pride banner.

“He’s afraid the Spokane community won’t support him. He’s ashamed, and he’s scared.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color photos