S.F. expects 1M at gay pride weekend

The City is gearing up to host the biggest LGBT pride parade in the nation, with 1 million participants expected at the 37th annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade and Celebration this weekend.

Two hundred groups representing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities will be marching over the weekend. Since the first parade, held in 1970, San Francisco’s LGBT Committee has grown to more than 400 members.

S.F. Pride media coordinator Cheryl Kohout said the low audience turnout in 1970 was “scary.” But today, the celebration, along with the Chinese New Year Parade, has grown to become one of the two largest in The City.

The parade comes only four days after a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage was passed by the New York state Assembly. The legislation is not, however, expected to pass the state Senate. Massachusetts is the only state that allows same-sex marriages. In 2004, San Francisco officials performed at least 15 same-sex weddings and issued about a dozen more marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

The celebrations along Market Street and at the Civic Center run from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Sunday’s parade starts at 10:30 a.m., beginning at Market and Beale streets and traveling west to Eighth Street.

The theme for this year’s $1.5 million event — “Pride, Not Prejudice” — will feature 19 different stages and venues to celebrate San Francisco’s diverse population, Kohout said.

“This is more than just a parade or a party. We’ll have … a Homo Hip-Hop Stage, a Tantra Stage, an Asian and Pacific Islander Stage, a Clean and Sober Area, and we’ll also have areas designated for kids and for the deaf.”

Diverse events such as these, however, do at times attract anti-gay protestors. In years past, Kohout said, protests have not been a problem.

“We do appreciate freedom of speech,” Kohout said. “People bring their signs but they’re usually in very small groups. More than anything, I think protesting has been shrinking.”

Pride will provide its own security, made up of 70 to 80 volunteers. The City, however, will also provide security patrols.

“I know that we will be present,” Sgt. Steve Mannina of the San Francisco Police Department said. “But how many officers we’ll have on duty, I can’t say.”

For the first time in the event’s history, the celebration will be broadcast live on the Internet. S.F. Pride has also assisted countries overseas — such as Brazil, Iceland and Canada — with their own celebrations.

Celebration and parade schedule

Saturday celebration at Civic Center: Noon to 6 p.m.

Sunday Market Street parade: 10:30 a.m. from Beale Street to Eighth Street

Sunday celebration: Noon to 7 p.m.

Stages and venues

Asian and Pacific Islander Stage, Art Space, Country Stage, Dance Arena, Faerie Freedom Village, Family Garden, Homo Hip Hop Stage, Latin Stage, Leather Alley, Main Stage, NectArena, Shadowplay Stage, Soul of Pride, SwingOut Stage, Tantra Stage, Transgender Pavilion, Writer’s Village, Clean and Sober Area, Elder Space, Deaf/HOH Space, Queer Youth Space

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