39th Annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade

Chicago's 39th Annual Pride Parade steps off on Sunday June 29 at 12 p.m. from the corner of Halsted Street and Belmont Avenue. From the Halsted and Belmont, the parade proceeds north on Halsted; then south on Broadway; then east on Diversey to Cannon Drive.

The theme for this year's June Pride Month celebration is "Live, Love, Be Proud!" With the issues of marriage for same sex couples and repealing the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the news, the annual Pride Parade will be a combination of both seriousness and celebration.

The parade will feature 250 registered entries representing community organizations, businesses, individuals and elected officials. Floats, decorated vehicles, drill teams, bands and marching units will be part of the procession. Crowd estimates for the annual parade in recent years has approached 450,000 spectators and that many are expected again this year.

Pride Parades were originally started to commemorate a night in June 1969 when gays fought back during a raid at the Stonewall Inn, a New York City gay bar. Gay bars were routinely raided by the police in the 1960's across the country. That night, a riot ensued that kicked off the formation of the modern day gay rights movement. Since that time, Pride Parades in most cities have grown into celebrations that include social, as well as political expressions of pride.

Eric Alva, former Marine and activist, will be Grand Marshal of the Chicago 39th Annual Pride Parade on Sunday June 29 at 12 Noon. Eric, who came out in 2007 joined Congressman Martin Meehan in introducing the Military Readiness Enhancement Act to urge the repeal of the military's, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

Eric Alva joined the Marines after high school and a short college stint. His unit was among the first to cross the border of Kuwait into Iraq for the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Three hours into the ground war, Eric was severely injured when he stepped on a land mine, requiring amputation of his right leg. He had become the first American wounded in the war, and the war's first Purple Heart recipient. After 13 years of military service, he retired as a Staff Sergeant.

Since that time, Eric has become a national spokesperson in the fight to repeal the military's discriminatory GLBT policy. Since coming out, he has appeared on a variety of talk shows and news programs. In addition, he has received numerous awards and recognitions including the 2003 Heroes and Heritage Award from LaRaza; the 2004 Hero's Among Us Award from People magazine; and the 2004 Patriot Award from the City of San Antonio, among others.

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