Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gays Show Pride with Celebration

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gays Show Pride with Celebration

Article excerpt

Byline: Alliniece T. Andino, Times-Union staff writer

Protests lessened to a lone man.

Sensitivity and acceptance increased.

But still there are those afraid to profess being gay during Jacksonville's Gay Pride Festival.

They fear losing their jobs if their sexual orientation becomes a reason for dismissal.

And so, only about 3,000 to 5,000 people are expected at today's events -- although the Jacksonville area's population of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is believed to be much higher.

The low turnout is disheartening to Fred Mich, treasurer for the Gay Pride committee.

But organizers don't dwell on the no-shows. They praise the event as a time to celebrate, reflect and keep pressing for change.

"I feel that homophobia is still very rampant and I have a great desire to do my part to educate people that we're everyday citizens just like they are," said Brent Tuten, chairman of the committee. "We need to come together and celebrate who we are."

The Gay Pride Festival was moved up a month to May because participants complained about the heat in June. And pets will be allowed for the first time, which is significant because pets are like children to some gay couples.

Organizers look forward to celebrating the gay community and remembering the 1969 Stonewall riot. The riot, in which New York police raided a gay bar and patrons fought back claiming harassment, is heralded as the start of the modern gay rights movement.

By the summer of 1970, groups in at least eight American cities organized events to commemorate Stonewall. Last year, 16 million people attended Gay Pride festivals worldwide.

"I was at the Stonewall riots back in 1969," Mich said. "I'm glad that this movement finally took to its feet, and we've come a long way. But we still have a long way to go.

"We still don't have the equal rights that Congress has given us or said we should have. We're not equal yet," he said.

Same-sex marriages are not recognized in most states, and Florida is not among the 11 states with a law prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. …

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