Spokane held its 21st annual Pride Parade Saturday less than a week after same-sex marriage opponents blocked a state law legalizing gay marriage from taking effect.
A stream of colors flowed through downtown from Main and Riverside avenues to Post and Stevens streets as thousands filed in and dressed up in extravagant costumes to watch or show support.
OutSpokane, a volunteer group geared toward helping Spokane’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning and allied (GLBTQA) citizens organized the parade.
Washington was set to become the seventh state to perform same-sex marriages starting Thursday, following the passage of a marriage equality bill in the last regular legislative session. But gay marriage opponents submitted signatures for a repeal measure on Wednesday, putting the law in limbo and hinging its survival on the results of the November election.
The measure, Referendum 74, will give voters a chance to support or reject the same-sex marriage law. As long as the referendum has enough valid registered voter signatures – 120,577 – it will go on the ballot.
The group behind the referendum gathered more than 241,000 signatures, giving it a good shot at making the ballot. Signature counting could wrap up at Secretary of State’s Office next week.
The situation became the backdrop for the parade. Washington United for Marriage, a group campaigning to uphold the gay marriage law, set up a booth and sought to get attendees to fill out cards, pledging their support.
OutSpokane co-chair Blaine Stum hopes the parade will help gather support for the upcoming fight to save the law from repeal.
“We were the first state to uphold domestic partner benefits via R-71 at the ballot in 2009. I think we can do it again,” Stum said. “We want all the rights and privileges that are afforded to heterosexual couples.”
Small counter-protests formed at points along the route, but police reported no instances of violence during the event.
Frank, a local who identified as a Christian and declined to give his last name, carried a life-size cross over his shoulder. It was fitted with a wheel, so he could drag it along the sidewalk. He stood near a group of other protesters who held placards and handed out material about The Bible.
“We’re not here to cause big issues, just to get people to think,” Frank said. “We’re hoping to reach people and get them to change their ways before they reach that final day.”
More than 5,000 people were expected to show up, said Johnny Quinn, the chairman of OutSpokane. Though, some in attendance said they thought the rain may have diminished the turnout.