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Holidays and Observances  
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Holidays and cultural observances bring people together for both celebration and reflection. Throughout the year, the glbtq community unites in pride and in protest, in recognition of a rich heritage and in hope for the future.

GLBTQ Pride Month

On June 11, 1999 President Bill Clinton issued a proclamation declaring June Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. The recognition was welcome, but the myriad people attending festivals and parades throughout the United States, Canada, and many other countries already knew that June was Pride Month.

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If the presidential proclamation did not mark the beginning of June as Pride Month, neither did any other particular moment in time: Pride Month was not a deliberately founded and organized event; rather, it is a cultural expression that has grown and evolved and will undoubtedly continue to do so.

Now in large part celebratory, the observance has its roots in both pride and protest. The initial events in the development of Pride Month were commemorations of the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots of June 28, 1969. In New York, a few hundred gay men and lesbians marched from Washington Square to Central Park for a "Gay-In" demonstration. As they progressed, they attracted more and more participants--the number variously estimated at from 5,000 to 15,000--making it the largest gay power demonstration as of that time.

The anniversary of Stonewall was also observed with a march in Los Angeles and rallies in San Francisco and Chicago.

Over time, glbtq organizations in more and more cities began to put on pride events in late June. The quest for equal rights remained a theme of the parades and rallies, but festive elements, such as picnics and performances by gay and lesbian choruses and bands, were added to the programs.

In addition, organizers of pride events sought to reach out for support from allies, especially elected officials, but not always with success. In 1982, for example, the City Council of Atlanta, Georgia passed a resolution that declared June 26 "Lesbian, Gay Male, and Transperson Pride Day" and stated that "the limitation on the pursuit of happiness based upon issues of sexual preference, race, sex, age, religious belief, economic standing, national origin, or physical capability represents the vilest form of discrimination and division," but Mayor Andrew Young refused to sign it.

In the same year, however, Mayor Kathy Whitmire of Houston, Texas, a city whose police department had a long record of harassment of gay and lesbian citizens, addressed a post-parade rally and said, "It's good to see so many people who have been friends of mine for a long time." In that era, her decision to attend a pride event and affirm solidarity was considered newsworthy.

In Canada, where tolerance and equality under the law are incorporated into its Charter of Rights, the refusal of some mayors and city councils to recognize pride observances have led to complaints filed with provincial human rights commissions. In some cases, cities have been fined for refusing to accord pride events the same recognition accorded to other civic celebrations, such as flying the rainbow flag or issuing proclamations of support.

While pride events still do not enjoy universal support from elected officials, many now do either attend events or issue proclamations recognizing the occasion. In election years, it is not uncommon to find office-seekers and members of political organizations campaigning for the glbtq vote at pride events.

The corporate world has taken note of the desirability of attracting glbtq customers, and some companies have become sponsors of pride celebrations. The Disney Corporation holds Gay Days at its theme park Disney World in conjunction with the pride festival in Orlando, Florida. (The company's California park, Disneyland, also hosts Gay Days, but in October, Gay History Month.)

The festival in Orlando runs for an entire week, but in most American cities, pride events take place during a weekend. In some places, including San Francisco and New York, an extravagant and exuberant parade is the centerpiece of the festivities. Other typical events are street fairs, concerts, film screenings, stand-up comedy performances, dances, and recreational activities such as golf outings.

Many festivals also include commitment ceremonies, a joyous event for the participants yet still bittersweet, given the continuing inequality of marriage laws in most places.

Cities around the globe now boast pride celebrations, the great majority of which are held in June. Many places have their events on the last weekend in commemoration of Stonewall, but in some, including Detroit and Orlando, the festivities are traditionally in the first week, while others celebrate in between, putting a rainbow over all of Gay Pride Month on the calendar.

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President Bill Clinton issued a proclamation declaring June Gay and Lesbian Pride Month in 1999.
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