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Annual City Hall kickoff to Pride Week takes political tone

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  May 31, 2013 06:52 PM

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Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com

“LGBT rights are human rights,” said US Representative Ed Markey, a candidate for US Senate, as he addressed the crowd at the annual raising of the Pride Flag on City Hall Plaza in Boston.

Boston’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community kicked off Pride Week 2013 on Friday with support from officials and candidates for offices ranging from City Council to the US Senate.

The event on City Hall Plaza drew dozens from the LGBT community as well as curious passersby to observe the raising of the rainbow-striped Pride Flag, which begins a week of festivities that will peak on Saturday, June 8, with the annual parade from Copley Square to Government Center.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino was unable to attend the ceremony due to surgery Friday morning that removed an enlarged prostate, but he was represented by Justin Holmes, the city’s director of constituent engagement, who is openly gay.

Holmes conveyed well wishes from Menino and his gratitude for his selection as grand marshal of the parade.

“To me, what a wonderful tribute it is to a man who spent the last 20 years, and even more as a city councilor, in support of our community at every turn,” Holmes said.

“[In the struggle for] marriage equality, from the earliest days of needle exchange, our mayor has been with us every step of the way,” Holmes said, “and he’s easily earned the moniker as the most pro-gay-rights mayor in our nation.”

The all-volunteer Boston Pride organization said this year’s parade will be the biggest in the festival’s 43-year history, with a record 230 groups signed up to participate.

Included will be professional basketball player Jason Collins, the first male athlete in a major team sport to publicly discuss being gay while still actively playing, who will march with his former Stanford University roommate, US Representative Joe Kennedy III.

In addressing the crowd, Pride Committee member Marco Torres recalled a time when support for LGBT citizens was not so widespread.

“Boston’s GLBT community has witnessed much adversity throughout the fight for equality over the past few decades,” he said. “In working together, the community has become a leader in the fight [for] LGBTQ rights.”

One measure of the community’s success may be the support on display at the event.

At least 11 of 13 city councilors attended, alongside several city department heads; newly elected State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry; State Representatives Elizabeth A. Malia and Martin J. Walsh; Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley and Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins; and state Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Walsh, Conley, and City Councilors John R. Connolly, Rob Consalvo, and Felix G. Arroyo, who were all present, are candidates to replace Menino, who announced in March that he would not seek re-election due to health issues.

Councilors Michael P. Ross and Charles C. Yancey, who were also present, have filed nomination papers in the race but have not yet been officially verified as having collected the necessary 3,000 signatures.

Democratic US Representative Ed Markey, who will face Republican candidate Gabriel Gomez in the US Senate special election in June, spoke of his long-standing support of LGBT causes.

Markey cited his vote in 1996 against the Defense of Marriage Act, his co-sponsorship of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and his vote to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for gay and lesbian members of the military.

“LGBT rights are human rights,” Markey said, to scattered applause. “It’s about basic human freedoms for our friends and their families. Any effort to deny equal protections under the law is unfair, discriminatory, and unconstitutional. And that is just plain wrong.”

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @jeremycfox.
Follow Downtown on Twitter: @YTDowntown.

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Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com

The Pride Flag, at right, flew alongside the American Flag, the POW-MIA Flag, and the Massachusetts Flag outside Boston City Hall.

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