BANGOR, Maine — A summer breeze rippled across rainbow-colored flags and buffeted star-shaped balloons as bands Saturday blasted music through West Market Square during the second annual Bridge Alliance Pride Festival.
The festival is one of thousands held around the world during the month of June, according to Greg Music, vice president of the Bridge Alliance. President Barack Obama earlier this year declared June National Pride Month, the first president to do so.
“These festivals are the open expression of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people’s determination to live lives of acceptance and equality,” Music, 54, of Bangor said of the event.
One of the reasons to hold the event this year, he said Saturday afternoon, is the November repeal by a vote of 53 percent to 47 percent of the law legalizing gay marriage. In April 2009, the Legislature passed and Gov. John Baldacci the next month signed into law a bill that allowed same-sex couples to marry.
“We need this time to come together and celebrate,” Music said Saturday, “to talk about the reality of that loss and to bring spiritual healing to our community.”
Members of churches that support same-sex marriage and have been supportive of GBLT issues spoke at the Pride Festival.
“One year ago, I stood at this event filled with such hope,” said the Rev. Becky Gunn, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bangor. “Hope that I could start marrying anyone who wished to marry — straight or gay. I knew that there was a potential that the referendum pushed by the religious right would test the resolve of Maine citizens who, on the whole, supported marriage equality.
“I knew it would be a battle, but I honestly thought that equality would win as did many of you,” she told the crowd of several hundred people gathered in the square. “We worked so very hard getting folks to vote no on [Question 1], and we lost. Our hearts were broken and our hope proved futile, or so it seemed.
“I think the battle tested our resolve,” Gunn said. “Would we stay in this endeavor to win equality at least on the marriage front? Have we allowed the fear and hate to take away our commitment, our energy, our dream? I say no to that. I say we must continue in this struggle for equality, and I think you agree [that] justice has never been achieved easily and we must battle on.”
The other reason for Saturday’s event, Music said, was to allow teenagers and young adults a safe and supportive environment where they could be themselves and not feel fearful.
“When I was their age, I knew no out gay people,” he said. “Kids in the past had no role models. I don’t want them to go through all the crap I had to go through to be out and happy at 54.”
Corey Seelye, 23, and Shane Humphrey, 21, both of Bangor came to the festival as a couple.
“I’m gay and I wanted to show my pride and support and spend some time with my boyfriend today,” Seelye said when asked why he’d come to Saturday’s event.
The Bridge Alliance was founded three years ago. It grew out of Northern Maine Pride, which for more than a decade sponsored the gay pride parade during the summer in Bangor.
One of its goals is to have allies, or straight people, work with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. Since its founding, the group has offered monthly dances, a prom and events for GLBT families, such as Halloween and Christmas parties.
The name Bridge Alliance is meant to call up images of Charlie Howard’s death, which occurred 26 years ago next month. Howard, a gay man, died on July 7, 1984, after being thrown by three teenagers from the bridge on State Street into Kenduskeag Stream. He was 23 at the time of his death.
On the Web: www.thebridgealliance.org.