BANGOR, Maine — One message pervaded Bangor Pride Festival celebrations Saturday: “Love wins.”
The words emblazoned banners in the parade and spilled from the lips of speakers and attendees reacting to the previous day’s U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage in every state in the country.
Looking over it all was Rissa Moore, 48, who walked the parade route and celebrated afterward on stilts. The Orono resident, who typically stands at 5-foot-7, towered at about 8-foot-3 on Saturday, drawing a lot of attention from children.
Moore attended the festival with her partner of six years, Linda Koehler, 51. The two are getting married this summer.
“Now I feel like I’m recognized as a whole person,” Moore said.
The pair take occasional road trips to Michigan. When they would stop at rest areas along the way, they used to wonder, “Would we be legal here?” The answer often determined whether they would hold hands going inside, according to Koehler.
“Now we’ll be legal everywhere,” Koehler said, holding hands with her substantially taller, stilt-wearing partner.
“It’s a fabulous day to be a human being,” Moore said.
Saturday’s events kicked off with a parade through downtown streets that included lots of rainbows, cheering and a variety of music, ranging from Cher to Taylor Swift. The music included a rolling karaoke station set up in the back of a sport utility vehicle.
After the parade ended, hundreds of people gathered in Pickering and West Market squares, listening to bands, dumping people into dunk tanks and celebrating the weekend’s festivities.
The mood of the event could have been very different had just one more justice believed the Supreme Court shouldn’t be the body to decide whether states allow gay marriage.
If the majority of justices Friday had ruled otherwise, there would have been more frustration at Saturday’s event, according Gage Alley, 20, of Old Town, who attended with his friend John Butler, 21, of Rockland. Had the ruling been different, they said, the festival would have been more of a continued call for change than a celebration.
Dissenting justices in the narrow 5-4 ruling said the same-sex marriage decision should have been left to the states, through democratic process.
Same-sex couples in Maine have had the right to marry since 2012 — the first state in the country to legalize gay marriage through popular vote.
“Without yesterday’s vote, all these ‘Love Wins!’ signs wouldn’t be here today,” Alley said.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.