(WASHINGTON) -- It’s a rite of June that has been going on for years. In cities across the country, including Washington, rainbow flags wave beneath the summer sun as the LGBT community celebrates “Pride Month.”
Friday night, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray held a reception and panel discussion on the LGBT Alliance in politics. At the reception, transgendered, gay and lesbian members and advocates acknowledged each other with the warm greeting of “Happy Pride!” Mayor Gray hosted a live interview followed by a panel discussion with local politicians. The audience was in good spirits as the panel vocally supported LGBT causes. And this year, LGBT advocates have something more to celebrate.
In May, President Obama told ABC News’ Robin Roberts in an exclusive interview that he thinks “same sex couples should be able to get married,” a comment that made Obama the first sitting president to voice support for same sex marriage. The president’s support has lit a flame under the members of the LGBT community during the 2012 Pride Parades giving the phrase “Happy Pride” a new meaning.
Talking to ABC News before taking part in the panel Thursday evening, Mayor Gray said “people are exhilarated by what Obama has come out and done but there does not seem to be a fundamental change in Pride week simply because of Obama’s remarks.” He affirmed that Washington has always shared this sense of pride for the LGBT community.
Advocates feel empowered by the political progress made in the past few years. Bonnie Cullison, a gay member of the Maryland House of Delegates, said that she has “certainly noticed a change for the better since Obama had vocalized support of same sex marriage.”
She believes that gay marriage was a “wedge” issue in the 2008 presidential campaign and that it was very meaningful for the Obama administration to jump on board with same sex advocacy. Cullison believes that the Obama administration has brought same-sex marriage to the forefront of public discourse, enabling politicians and citizens alike to engage in the conversation.
Members of the LGBT community in “gay-friendly” Washington have rallied in support of Pride Week for a long time now, but what about American cities that aren’t so accepting?
Salt Lake City, Utah held its Pride Parade earlier this week with the largest Mormon turnout seen in the city’s history, organizers said. The outburst of support and participation in Salt Lake City was an “outlet for individuals to declare that Mitt Romney’s views of gay marriage do not speak for the whole Mormon population,” according to Sarah McBride, a young transgendered LGBT advocate who attended the LGBT Alliance event on Thursday night.
“I hope that the turnout in Salt Lake City this week was a result of people acting out against the policies of Mitt Romney and his administration,” Mayor Gray told ABC News. “Supporting same-sex marriage is the right thing to do. It is welcomed in Washington, D.C. and should be picked up in other states as well.”
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