Sacramento’s LGBT Pride parade kicked off with its usual glamour and gusto Saturday morning as high-heeled drag queens and glittery go-go dancers marched down N Street en route to Capitol Mall.
Amid the vibrant lineup, a new attraction stole some of the spotlight: a painted porta-potty bashing North Carolina’s transgender bathroom law on one side and endorsing ¡VOTA!, a grass-roots campaign for immigrant rights, on the other.
With the California primary nearing, the Pride parade and festival, which drew thousands, became fertile ground for political campaigning and a place for otherwise isolated causes to ban together and push for change. Nearly a year after the the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage nationally, California human rights advocates are making a bigger, bolder plea for inclusion.
“We have to support other minority communities,” said Stuart Milk, grand marshal of the parade. Milk is a nephew of Harvey Milk, an openly gay San Francisco supervisor who was slain in 1978. “We must bring them into our movement and we must go into their movement. There’s an intersectionality between women, between people of color, between Latino and Latinas, between immigrants. When our government or our laws can discriminate against any segment of people, it puts us all at risk.”
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Milk was one of many in the crowd Saturday sporting a bright pink tank top advertising a mash-up of political slogans – “Get Loud,” “NoH8,” “#Health4All” and “#LoveWins.”
A tank top-clad Darrell Steinberg, a Sacramento mayoral candidate, was one of a number of local political figures to march behind the portable toilet Saturday, along with Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna and Sacramento City Councilman Steve Hansen.
As the marchers passed, spectators broke into a chant of “Vota! Vota! Vota!” while the Sacramento Kings drum line boomed in rhythm.
“We know that both the LGBT and the undocumented community face a lot of parallels in terms of discrimination and acceptance,” said Marlon Cuellar, program manager for The California Endowment and organizer of the porta-potty brigade. “It’s just really important for all the communities to really come together. We’re here demonstrating also the stark contrast between California and other states that are more discriminatory.”
The excitement was just as high at the festival, where Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigners were speaking to potential voters and anti-Donald Trump T-shirts were available for purchase.
Donald Bentz, executive director of the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, said he expected this year’s Pride festival to have some political flair, given recent developments on medical coverage and bathroom protections. He noted that there is still work to be done.
“The state Capitol is right there in the backdrop, essentially watching over the Pride as a reminder that California is where a lot of the progressive change on LGBT issues has taken place,” Bentz said. “Though there’s a lot to be joyful of, we do this as a reminder that there’s a lot to be done, there’s a lot of work ahead.”
In its 32nd year, Sacramento’s Pride festival drew more vendors and more parade floats than before, Bentz said.
As the festival grows larger, he hopes it “continues to reflect the roots of Sacramento and the flavor of the community” in ways that festivals in bigger cities sometimes don’t.
Maria Turner-Carney, a 31-year-old spectator who attended the parade while visiting from Seattle, praised Sacramento’s efforts.
“It’s really lovely to see Pride in a smaller city because Pride has transitioned to a really corporate event, which is really disappointing because it’s historically really significant for the queer community,” she said.