With all the ups and downs facing Chicago’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community lately, Sunday was a time for celebration.
Thousands of celebrators lined the streets of the Lakeview neighborhood on the city's north side for the 44th Annual Chicago Pride Parade.
The parade stepped off at noon Sunday and featured more than 200 floats, decorated vehicles, performers and walkers.
Among those appearing in the parade were Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Governor Pat Quinn, former NFL star Wade Davis and other athletes, politicians and supporters.
“It’s just been one of those days where all the work that I’ve done to really empower young people has come full circle and in a city that’s embraced me beyond my even wildest dreams," said Davis, who was the parade's grand marshal. "I’m just honored to be here.”
Davis, who retired in 2004, came out as gay just over one year ago and began advocating for gay athletes.
This year’s political woes with gay rights were undeniable and left many in the Chicago GLBT community frustrated and angry.
After Illinois politicians failed to call gay marriage to a vote during their spring session, many were calling for politicians to be banned from the parade.
But with recent successes like the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit lifting its stay on gay marriages in California, many gay rights advocates have rejoiced.
“Today we’re actually looking forward to celebrating our victories," said Andy Hannig, director of public policy with Equality Illinois. "We had a huge win with the Supreme Court decisions this week. If the Supreme Court hadn’t made the decision that they made I think there would have been a lot of disappointment"
And politicians attending the parade agreed it was a time for celebration, but also said it was a call for action.
“Today’s parade should be a push now for Springfield to actually do what they need to do,” Emanuel said.
“Now I think it’s time for the people of Illinois to complete the mission,” said Quinn.
According to Rep. Greg Harris, the day was joyous for the GLBT community, but not for those in Illinois.
“Today is joyous because of what the Supreme Court did in treating all families equally under the eyes of the law, but it is not joyous in the state of Illinois where we are still treating one set of families with less respect and dignity than the other," he said. "The Illinois legislature needs to finish its job and pass the marriage equality bill."
Many at the parade remained hopeful that Illinois will pass the marriage equality bill.
“I can’t wait for it to become legal in Illinois," said Dan Gentle, who has been with his partner for 17 years. "It's going to be amazing."
Sunday’s parade began at the corner of Broadway and Montrose and continued south on Broadway before heading south on Halsted to Belmont. The parade then headed east on Belmont, returned south on Broadway and ended going east on Diversey to Cannon Drive.
The longer route, which debuted through the Lakeview neighborhood at last year’s festivities, was implemented to accommodate the increasing numbers of spectators and add more accessible train stations for attendees to reach the parade.
This year, parade officials warned of overcrowding at the Belmont CTA station and surrounding areas, and were encouraging viewers to watch the parade from other parts of the route.
Other nearby stations parade goers could use included the Wilson and Sheridan stations on the CTA’s Red Line.
The CTA’s website offered for more information for bus reroutes and parade transportation.
With temps in the 70s heat wasn't a major concern, but parade officials also offered “cooling busses” on Halsted between Belmont and Clark, on Irving between Clark and Broadway, on Addison in front of the 19th District Police Station, and on Broadway at Belmont.
Last year a record 850,000 turned out for the parade and no arrests were reported during the festivities.