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After Marriage Equality, What's Next For Las Vegas Pride?

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Now that the Supreme Court has ruled on marriage equality, what is next for the community that has rallied for years for that decision.

Neon lights, flashy signs and glamorous outfits could describe almost any Las Vegas-style event. But this one has one more thing that makes it stand out - a lot of rainbow colors. 

The Las Vegas Pride celebration is in its 32nd iteration, and the parade snaking its way through downtown Friday night is expected to draw an upward of 40,000 people. 

It's the first Las Vegas Pride held since the U.S. Supreme Court's June ruling on same-sex marriage. Pride festivals have long been the keystone celebration of many LGBT communities in cities across the country. 

There's no doubt that a societal shift in attitude toward the LGBTQ community has come a long way in just the last decade. Public policy is starting to reflect this attitude. 

So what are the goals of the Pride festival now that marriage equality has been achieved? Does it still hold the same symbolic status that it once did? 

Dennis McBride is the director of the Nevada State Museum and has researched the gay community in Southern Nevada. 

He said the pride parade in Las Vegas started out in the 80s as just a gathering of people at a student lounge at UNLV.

It grew from there, but when the AIDS epidemic hit the community, it slipped from being a celebration to a moment of mourning for the people that had died.

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As the 90s approached, McBride said the pride celebration started to shrink. In 1990, the organizers decided to give it one last big effort and it was a success.

From there, it has grown to be a colorful celebration of identity and inclusion.

McBride said over the last five years, something else has changed. He said casinos now feature pride parade floats, something he didn't think would ever happen.

"That is one of the most amazing things about the development of the gay community in Las Vegas because up until very recently it was not very accepted and it was almost as though someone turned on a light switch," McBride said.

McBride also said that because Las Vegas is a tourist destination for every other kind of celebration from Chinese New Year to Mexican Independence Day, it is also a destination for the pride celebration. 

But, in a twist on the Las Vegas that is marketed to the rest of the world, the Pride Las Vegas parade doesn't feature some of the more outrageous outfits, or lack thereof, featured in other parades. 

"Anyone who has lived her much of their lives know that there is a great dichotomy in the way Las Vegas is promoted and the way it really is," McBride observed.

And while some people view the commercialization of pride parades as a form of selling out, McBride is happy to see it.

"Some look at that and think that it is a sell out, but I don't," he said. "I look at it as a sign of integration and acceptance."

In years past, much of the message from the pride parade was marriage equality, but now the Supreme Court has decided that issue.

McBride doesn't think because that message is no longer relevant that a pride celebration is no longer needed.

He pointed to celebrations of other ethnicities, religions and groups that might be considered 'other' as an example of why the pride celebration needs to be around.

"It has become a true celebration of self," he said. "A true celebration of inclusion. A true celebration of fun and everybody is in on it."

Plus, he noted

 "everybody loves a party!"

McBride can contrast the party of today with the first parades he attended in the 70s after the Stonewall Riots, which was how pride parades started as a way to remember the first demonstrations for LGBTQ rights in America. 

He said the first parade he attended was just a few people standing in the streets of Portland, Oregon with signs that declared to the world their sexual orientation. 

Now, the pride parades are an event where everyone can gather and be themselves, whatever that self is.

"I find that to be an amazing development that I thought when I was standing in the middle of the street in Portland, Oregon, scared to death but declaring, that one day I would be absolutely normal."

 

Guests

Dennis McBride, director, Nevada State Museum 

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