- About Us
Kent Pride: Gay community shines at festival | SLIDESHOW
They arrived as couples, in drag, in makeup or just jeans and a T-shirt. But they all gathered at Burlington Green Park to celebrate being themselves for the conclusion of the second annual Kent Pride weekend.
The event, which culminated in a Pride Festival in the Park last Sunday, was organized to support gay pride in South King County.
Most pride weekends are held in June around the time of the 1969 Stonewall riots, where members of New York's gay community rioted following a police raid on a gay establishment. Local organizer Wade Schwartz instead wanted to hold the Kent Pride weekend in September to avoid competing with Seattle's festivities.
The weekend under the sun concluded with a catered lunches provided by the Curran Law Firm and rainbow-layered cakes made by Sweet Themes Bakery. Around 20 people arrived to listen to the closing speeches given by various community figures and politicians.
The law firm and the Kent Downtown Partnership were event sponsors.
While many advances have been made toward gay rights at the state and federal levels, many of the couples present said that they feel the country can make improvements.
One Seattle couple, down in Kent to see their parents, said that when they visit their families in the South, "it reminds us how far we have to go."
Alecia and Miranda Burnaz have been married for seven years, but Miranda has had trouble getting spousal benefits from Alecia's military service. Alecia said that when describing her relationship in military documents, up until as recently as a month ago, she had to clarify that she was married – to a woman.
Pride days, Miranda said, are places where gay couples can go and be who they are without fear of mockery or other reprisals.
"It's a place where you can come and be comfortable, you know? Not have to worry about people watching you all the time, you know?"
Other people told their own stories of coming out, with varying degrees of difficulty.
For Schwartz, the ostracism his family received from his hometown in Idaho was particularly difficult to relive. But he said that he held no anger or hatred for them.
Kent City Councilmember Liz Albertson said that gay and lesbian acceptance in a community has been correlated with that community's success.
Education and tolerance were Schwartz's watchwords for the weekend, acknowledging that people hate what they don't understand. While the recent advances in equal rights for gay and lesbian couples have improved the situation, it's still important to educate the public, Schwartz said.
"Just because it's legal doesn't take away from the hate," he said.
Pride events help outsiders better understand that, as Alecia said.
Gay and lesbian couples are just like everyone else.