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Putting pride, acceptance on parade

The sun came out over a sea of rainbows in the form of flags, banners and colored socks -- at the annual Pride Parade on Sunday along Elmwood Avenue.

Members of Buffalo and Western New York's Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender community, as well as their allies, marched down the street singing, dancing and tossing out beads. Onlookers lined the streets, cheering and clapping as the parade went by, capturing the tone of acceptance and pride that the event promoted.

"It's pretty amazing having everybody come together to celebrate," said Jorien Brock, senior director of the Pride Center.

Acceptance of LGBT youth took center stage, with local students from the Gay and Lesbian Youth Services leading the parade. Dina Ziegler, a spectator and Buffalo resident, said her favorite part of the parade each year is watching her daughter walk by with Amherst High School's chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance.

"It's nice to see the kids stand up for something," Ziegler said.

The parade, running from Lafayette to Chippewa Street, lasted just over an hour. A few protesters stood on the corner of Elmwood and North Street, holding up signs with degrading messages directed toward the LGBT community.

Megan Connors, a member of Buffalo Burlesque Collective and resident of Hamburg, said it was good to see the protesters overshadowed by a community that supports LGBT rights.

Connors also noted something different about this year's parade: the presence of local politicians.

This year's parade was Buffalo's first since New York State legalized gay marriage last year. Connors said in the past it has been taboo for local politicians to publicly support the LGBT community. But this year, she said, she saw several local politicians in the crowd.

"This year it was different because the political scene is changing," she said.

A local politician who did not attend was among those praised by some parade-goers.

State Sen. Mark J. Grisanti, R-Buffalo, made the deciding vote in support of legalizing gay marriage in New York, going against a promise he had made to oppose gay marriage when he was elected in 2010. Members of the LGBT community at the parade expressed support for Grisanti.

A festival that included food, live music and family-friendly activities followed the parade at Canalside. A variety of local and national organizations set up tables, where some sold T-shirts promoting LGBT pride, spread information on HIV prevention, or signed up volunteers for President Obama's 2012 campaign.

Brock said her favorite part of the event is seeing all of the people and organizations that come together to support the LGBT community each year.

Even though great progress has been made in terms of civil rights for LGBT people, more change is needed, she said. One area that needs progress is protection and rights for transgender people, she said.

Connors echoed Brock's sentiments that community support is an important and enjoyable part of the event each year.

"We're not a huge town," she said, "but our pride is huge."