Wednesday, June 7, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 149

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22nd annual Pride festivities begin Friday

By Audrey Warren
Daily Cougar Staff

From a weekend at AstroWorld and barbecue buffet to an evening at Rich's nightclub and a nighttime parade, Houston will be hopping with events beginning Friday to mark the 22nd annual Lesbian and Gay Pride Celebration.

Festivities June 9 through 24 will commemorate the lesbian and gay civil rights movement's onset after the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion in New York City's Greenwich Village.

Jack Valinski, executive director of the Pride Committee of Houston, said that before Stonewall same-sex couples could not dance together and police would raid gay and lesbian nightclubs and throw patrons in jail. The modern gay rights movement began at Stonewall, where gays and lesbian protested for more than a day in support of equal protection.

The events in Houston will culminate in the gay pride parade, which will begin on Westheimer Road between Woodhead and Whitney streets at 9 p.m. June 24. Houston's pride parade is the largest in the Southwest, drawing an estimated crowd of 100,000.

Valinski estimates that about 10 percent of Houstonians are gay or lesbian, despite the city's conservative atmosphere. He said the parade is always a success, although the past couple of years have seen a smattering of protesters.

"The whole thing is visibility," Valinski said. "A lot of people still don't like (gays and lesbians) because they don't know them and don't know that sometimes they are our neighbors and friends."

Gays and lesbians see this event and it gives them the courage to come out, Valinski said.

"A lot of people don't know there is a community," he said. "We have come a long way in the last 30 years, but we have a long way to go."

The celebration's official kickoff will take place at 6 p.m. Friday at the Lovett Inn, 510 Lovett Blvd., where partygoers will enjoy complimentary food and drinks and the chance to interact with other members of the community.

This year's Pride 2000 theme is "Take Pride, Take Joy, Take Action," which Valinski said is appropriate for today's gay community.

"It causes us to reflect on all of the progress our community has made in the realm of equal rights, like the recent announcement that same-sex couples will soon be able to enter into civil unions in Vermont," Valinski said. "It also tells us that we must remain active in ending the threats to our lives, such as anti-gay hatred and violence, and keep progressing."

Other Pride 2000 festivities will include "Pride Weekend" June 10 and 11 at AstroWorld. A $25 ticket covers admission to the park on Saturday, a barbecue buffet, entertainment by the Miami-based dance group Funky Green Dogs, admission to Rich's nightclub Saturday evening and admission to WaterWorld on Sunday.

For more information about Pride 2000 events, call (713) 529-6979.

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