Pittsburgh’s gay pride festival continues to grow, with organizers expecting more than 100,000 people to enjoy the celebration on Liberty Avenue.
When the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh took over the festival in 2007, about 3,000 people attended. Six years later, the organization is expecting to break the 100,000 mark.
Gary Van Horn, president of the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, attended his first Pride festival in 1996. He said he never expected Pittsburgh Pride to get as large as it has.
“I think it’s kind of astonishing to see where we were even 10 or 15 years ago and where we are now about acceptance, and I think it’s a very, very interesting phenomenon that happened very quickly,” he said.
Formed in 1973 by a small group of lesbians, the festival has changed over the years.
It was more “activist-focused” back then, Van Horn said. Women would take the stage and scream against social injustices and demand their equality and protection under the law. That still goes on, Van Horn explained, but the activist of the 1980s is different from the activist of 2013.
“We still don’t want to lose track of the fact that we have a long struggle ahead of us, but what I think Pittsburgh Pride does today is it brings our allies to the table. It brings the community together, and it also shows our politicians in Pittsburgh, and our Pittsburgh citizens, that there’s quite a lot of support for the LGBT community,” Van Horn said.
With the Supreme Court scheduled to rule later this month on two cases that could change the face of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the United States, this year’s theme for Pittsburgh Pride is “Marry Me”.
The Supreme Court is to decide on cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8. Signed in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, DOMA states that same-sex partners are not eligible to receive the roughly 1,100 benefits of marriage that a straight couple could. The high court is also expected to deliver a decision in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, which challenges the legality of California’s Proposition 8 that bans same-sex marriage.
Pennsylvania is a state torn on the issue of same-sex marriage and same-sex rights. On April 15, Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia) put forth legislation that would legalize civil unions and recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state. Less than one month later, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler County) pushed for legislation that would define marriage as being between only a man and a woman. Neither of the bills has made it out of committee.
Despite all the back-and-forth in Pennsylvania, Van Horn believes Pittsburgh Pride will continue to spread its message of social equality for years to come.
“I hope Pittsburgh Pride continues to grow," he said. "I think that we continue to change people’s hearts and minds and continue here in Pittsburgh to treat people with dignity and respect. And at the end of the day it’s real simple. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”
Pittsburgh Pride continues through Sunday.