Pride Festival presents safe haven in Richland

2017-07-17 | Tri-City Herald

July 17--For Hailey Howard, Richland's Pride Festival means not having to worry about being judged.

The city resident, whose electric blue hair stood out as she walked into Howard Amon Park, was excited about going to the Sunday event.

"I've been out and about in the queer community for years," she said. "Pride means to me, that I can go up to someone and say, 'I'm queer,' and they'll say, 'Oh, dude. That's really awesome.' "

Howard, like many of the people walking through the Tri-Cities' second Pride Festival, said the event gives her a chance to be open and honest about who she is without having any fear of rejection.

The festival was the culmination of Pride Week, and brought businesses, community organizations, politicians and even masked superheroes to the park Sunday afternoon.

They came carrying signs supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and reinforcing the message that people should not be judged based on the sexual orientation.

While Carly Coburn, Tri-Cities Pride's communications director, heard from other community members that the event is like a family reunion, this was the first time she was able to attend one.

"Pride has a lot of history with it being a place for you to go when you're LGBTQ, where even if you're not accepted at home, you're accepted at Pride," she said "Not everyone lives in supportive households. Not everyone has supportive family or friends."

Carie LaMarsh came from Prosser to participate in the event. While she is straight, she wanted to support the community. A member of the Tri-Cities group Love Not Hate, LaMarsh's son Colin pulled a wagon during the festival's march holding wooden letters spelling out "Love."

It is important for LaMarsh to teach her son to accept other people, she said.

"We don't discriminate. We love everybody," she said. "We care about everybody. We treat everybody the same. I think it's important to teach our kids that too."

Along with providing a venue for people to feel safe in expressing their sexual preferences, Coburn said the work of supporting political change has not ended with the U.S. Supreme Court allowing same-sex couples to marry.

A recent failed petition to put an initiative on the ballot aimed at overturning Washington's bathroom rules for transgender individuals is a recent example, she said.

The march drew a couple people protesting President Donald Trump's administration and the possibility of removing federal funding from Planned Parenthood.

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The Caped Crusader made an appearance at Sunday's Pride Festival in Richland.

Cameron Probert Tri-City Herald

Julia and Gary Maupin were two of those attending the Pride March. Julia carried a sign supporting Planned Parenthood. She is part of a group that stages protests in Richland every Tuesday.

"I think everybody has the right to their life, and how they choose to live it," she said.

The event even brought support from the Caped Crusader. A man, who did not want to reveal his secret identity, dressed as the Adam West-version of Batman and came to the festival.

His costume came complete with a rainbow-colored Batman symbol.

"Batman protects all citizens," he said. "It was important to come down."

Cameron Probert: 509-582-1402, @cameroncprobert