Some say gay rights have come a long way, and some say there is still a long way to go.
Many at Spokane’s annual Pride Parade & Rainbow Festival on Saturday said the status quo of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and allied community is a bit of both, citing issues like the impending repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and difficulties facing those who seek same-sex unions.
The parade kicked off near Riverfront Park. A large group of people came out to celebrate, raise awareness of GLBTQA issues, spend time with friends, family and loved ones, and show support of the parade’s theme: Accept all, no exceptions.
Tami Faith, 33, and her wife, Patti Faith, 44, came to the parade because Lewiston, where they live, has no pride parade of its own. Tami Faith said while society has become more accepting, celebrations like the pride parade are important because equal rights have not been achieved.
“People need to know that we’re just people,” she said. “We’re the same as everyone else. We shouldn’t have to hide it. We shouldn’t have to say we’re gay and have people look at us weird.”
The Faiths had to travel to Canada to get married, Tami Faith said.
“Until everybody has the same rights as everybody else, we have to do this,” Faith said. “Until we can walk into a courthouse and buy a marriage license and get married without a fight.”
The Faiths, whose third anniversary is this summer, wore the same shirts to the parade they wore to their wedding, which read “She is the other half of my rainbow,” with arrows pointing to each other. They have been best friends for 10 years.
“We never fight,” Patti Faith said.
But Tami Faith said things weren’t always so easy. Her family struggled to come to terms with her sexuality when she came out three years ago.
“I came out with a vengeance,” said Tami Faith, who comes from a small town and a religious family. “I wasn’t going to hide it anymore. It was hard with my family at first, but it’s getting better.”
She was one of many at the parade who have fought for equality.
Spokane native Maj. Margaret Witt, a decorated flight nurse and advocate of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” served as one of the parade’s grand marshals. Witt, who was discharged from the Air Force for being gay, settled a major lawsuit against the Pentagon this spring and retired with full benefits in May.
A uniformed soldier led the parade, marching in front of a large military vehicle. But the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” isn’t final yet. While President Barack Obama signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act in December, the policy remains in place until the president, the secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman certify the repeal, followed by a 60-day waiting period. However, training has begun for Department of Defense employees in preparation of the transition.
Helen Bonser, a longtime civil rights advocate who began fighting for gay rights when her daughter came out as a lesbian in 1981, also served as a grand marshal.