// Tacoma’s gay population puts on its best for 10 days of events

Starting July 13, Tacomans will see evidence of the city’s annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) pride celebrations when the rainbow pride flag once again flies over city hall. The flag raising at 4 p.m. that day will be preceded on July 10 by a Tacoma City Council proclamation reading re-affirming the city’s commitment to LGBT rights and equality.

Thus kicks off 10 days of pride events across the city, culminating in Out In The Park on July 14 when the downtown Theater District comes alive with music, happy people everywhere, 90-plus booths representing small businesses, schools, non-profits and more, entertainment, more food vendors than ever before, fun and community. Organizers are anticipating that attendance may reach 7,000 this year.

Later that evening, The Mix will hold its fourth annual Pride Block Party on St. Helens Avenue.

Starting with the fact that Out In The Park is a family friendly, alcohol-free event, the variety of things going on during the city’s pride celebration rivals that of much larger cities yet retains a thoroughly Tacoma flavor that appeals to the sensibilities of the people who live here: discussions and fellowship with faith communities; screenings of film documentaries to help build bridges of understanding; events where LGBT youth can gather in safety and camaraderie; and other amenities including a staged reading at the Broadway Center.

While the pride festivities overall are indeed about having a good time, there is a more serious side as well – namely the political aspects of increased LGBT visibility in Tacoma as the country in general, and Washington State in particular, continue to grapple with the concept of gay marriage.

With Referendum 74 on the Washington State ballot this November, voters will decide whether or not to retain the state’s equal marriage law. Tacoma pride organizers are working to inject this issue into the festivities as an opportunity to educate voters and find volunteers to help build the “Yes on 74” campaign for marriage equality.

Then, in addition to the presidential election, there are the various state seats up for election this year including that of Congressman Norm Dicks, a steadfast supporter of LGBT equality who recently announced he would not seek re-election.

“We have a lot of elections this year that are important for our community,” said Michelle Douglas, executive director of the Rainbow Center. State gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee and Sen. Derek Kilmer, who’s running for Dicks’ seat, will be recognized during Out In The Park.

Douglas said Out In The Park has reached a new height in the number of sponsors and community partners. “This really speaks to community ownership of this festival,” she said. “It’s just very exciting.”

Visit: http://www.tacomapride.org for more about what’s on tap for Tacoma Pride 2012.


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