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FERNDALE – Pride month kicked off in Michigan with Ferndale Pride June 1. The event brought over 6,000 people to the four square mile city which is home to the state’s largest LGBT community center, an openly gay mayor and previous mayor, a clear nondiscrimination ordinance and many LGBT businesses and families.
For the third year in a row, Ferndale Pride’s focus was on a family-friendly festival with plenty of music and ways for the community to connect. But there was also a strong political element to the festivities, reminding people of the struggles LGBT people face and the need for allied and politician support.
Congressman Gary Peters helped open Ferndale Pride, with a speech about the historic end of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy of the US Military, the need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, and the need for supporters of equality to stand up. “These are issues I care very deeply about,” Peters said. “When I first got elected to the United States Congress in 2009, one of the first caucuses that I joined was the LGBT Caucus because it was the right thing to do and I’m proud to be part of that.”
Among the booths was the Oakland County Democratic Party, and among the crowds Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter collected signatures for his re-election campaign, and openly gay Southfield City Commissioner Jeremy Moss also networked with people about his plans to run in 2014 for the Michigan House of Representatives seat. That seat is currently held by Rudy Hobbs who is planning to run for Peters congressional seat in 2014, since Peters will be running for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the retiring U.S. Sen. Carl Levin.
Also at Ferndale Pride over 1,800 people signed a Unity Michigan pledge to help raise awareness about the fact that in Michigan people can still be fired for being gay. The coalition, with the help of BTL, will be at Pride festivals throughout the state gathering signatures for the cause. “This project represents the best in collaboration,” said BTL publisher Jan Stevenson, who helped get people signed up. “All the Unity partners are working together, and we are helping them, to identify LGBT friendly voters in Michigan. This will be invaluable information when we gear up for the 2014 elections.”
The festival kicked off Friday with photo shoot party at Affirmations to raise money for “Second Class Citizens,” a documentary in progress to raise awareness about major issues facing the LGBT community including marriage, adoption, education, private organizations, religion, employment, donating blood, anti-bullying laws, housing, homelessness and the gay panic defense.
The day began Saturday with a 1,000 person Rainbow Run through the streets of Ferndale. Participants were sprayed with a cornstarch-based powder paint as they ran past sponsored stations. They were also given a packet for themselves. By the time the festival officially opened at noon, the intersection of 9 Mile and Allen was turned into a rainbow colored path that was perfect for the festivities.
Congressman Peters’ remarks led into a mass balloon launch, with over a dozen paint-covered Pride attendees sent multi-colored balloons into the air.
Other groups were on hand to educate the public about various LGBT interests and issues. PFLAG Detroit members reached out to parents and loved ones of LGBT youth and all people who would like to know more about relating to the gay and transgender people they may know. President Tony DeOrio, who has been with PFLAG Detroit for about five years, said, “We have a warm, embracing, loving group. About 50 to 60 people come each month and there is a lot of diversity. We have parents, kids and allies of all different ages, races, and backgrounds. There are parents with transgender children and that has grown in the past few years.” Each month the group hosts a different speaker, and then takes time for the families to talk, mingle and get support. Meetings are held the second Sunday of each month at 2pm at The Lutheran Church of The Master, 3333 Coolidge Hwy, Troy.
Other groups included Transgender Michigan, National Organization for Women, Michigan AIDS Coalition, Dykes on Bikes, Motor City Bears, Dignity Detroit, FernCare, AIDS Walk Detroit and Higher Ground. In all there were about 75 organizations and vendors showing their wares at booths lined up and down Nine Mile Road..
For info on the rest of the Prides this month around the state, go to https://www.pridesource.com/guidearticle.html?article=60479.
For more on Ferndale Pride go to http://www.ferndalepride.org.