The Southern Maine Pride Parade and Festival was last Saturday, and boy! was it a gorgeous day in Portland. Phil was in the parade with a bunch of other legislators, and unlike last year when it rained, I decided to head into town and join in the festivities. I think it's nice that there is a legislative group in the parade carrying a flag and generally having a good time.
I've heard some people say it's more of a political stunt than anything else, but I don't buy that. At all levels of politics, politicians like to dance around divisive issues. If possible, they avoid making a public committment one way or the other even if they actually do have a personal opinion. In the last few local elections, there have been some touchy issues ranging from bear baiting to tax cap proposals, and of course the whole "No one 1: Maine Won't Discriminate" campaign that we WON so that everyone in Maine is protected under civil rights laws. All of these issues had strong proponents on both sides, and many legislators avoided weighing in if they could. I'm proud of Phil for doing his homework and taking a stand on issues that split the state. Not only does he make his position known to anyone who asks, he also acts on his beliefs. He actively campaigned against the tax cap and Question 1. I think taking part in the Pride parade is the same kind of thing. It sends a message to the GLBT community that they have support in the government--maybe not from every legislator, but at least from some who are willing to 'go public' with their beliefs.
The Christian Civic League (poorly named, let me tell you) is a group very much against GLBT rights. This group made a stink about coming out to the parade to film it with the plan of creating a record of public officials who participate. Only about five or so folks from the League showed up, and they were definitely outnumbered and out-glammed. They made their little video and put it on their website, but I really think they look like petulant morons rather than social activists. Actually, most people didn't even notice them, they took up so little space on the sidewalk. One of the legislators said he wasn't planning on coming to the parade because he had some family stuff going on, but when he heard about this video-making stunt, he decided he needed to be there!
Overall, I'd say there was sort of a religious theme to the whole parade. Many religious organizations have decided to show that all Christians aren't in league with the League, and so many churches took part. That was exciting to see.
I have to admit that the Pride parade in Portland isn't nearly as flashy as those in bigger cities. I've seen Franklin's pictures from Chicago Pride, for example, and we just don't match up in the glitz factor. We did have a Queen or two, but most 'floats' were limited to rainbow flags and trucks of people dancing and throwing out whistles and beads. Of course, what we lacked in flash, we certainly made up for in spirit. No complaints here! I think everyone had a great time.
In fact, two of my favorite participants were simple in appearance, but I liked them best (besides Phil, of course):