LAKEVIEW — On a perfect summer day, Chicago's gay community celebrated the only way it knows how: loudly, colorfully and with flair.
Thousands lined the streets of Uptown and Lakeview for the 44th annual Pride Parade as it snaked down Broadway and Halsted streets for an event that took new meaning in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act last week.
"Change is here," said Boystown resident James Robinson, 22.
More than 200 floats, bands, decorated cars and walkers marched hrough Uptown and Lakeview Sunday, joined by Grand Marshal and former NFL player Wade Davis and the Retired Professional Football Players of Chicago.
Police said more than 1 million people attended the festivities.
While the neighborhood was in a celebratory mood, the spectre of the General Assembly's failure to pass a gay marriage bill hung over revelers.
"We shouldn't have to vote on it," said Theresa Bredemann, 55. "It should just be true."
Joseph Doire, 22, marched with advocacy group Equality Illinois. He said this year's parade had added importance after the Supreme Court ruling, but said Illinois needs to embrace gay marriage.
"It's a step in the right direction," he said.
Indiana resident Debbie Luttrell, 49, came to the parade with her girlfriend, Elizabeth Moore, 47. Being openly gay is much easier now than it was when she came out 20 years ago, Luttrell said.
"Twenty years ago, people were scared. Now it's like we're here and we're proud," she said. "It can only get better."
Nearly two dozen politicians joined the parade, including Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), Ald. James Cappleman (46th), Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Chicago), Attorney General Lisa Madigan and State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz — despite a petition seeking to ban politicians due to the Illinois General Assembly's failure to take a vote on gay marriage. Organizer Richard Pfeiffer said he welcomed these officials because they've supported the gay community for years.
Tunney, the city's first openly gay alderman, told constituents in an email that Sunday's parade "comes at such a significant time" because of the end of DOMA. At this week's City Council, he gave a stirring speech on the importance of the moment but also called upon Illinois General Assembly to pass marriage in the state.
"Gays and lesbians are part of the City of Chicago," Tunney said. "We are everywhere. And we are normal human beings. And we deserve equal rights and respect and dignity."
Davis, who was signed to the Tennessee Titans, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins, said he was excited to be at the parade. He said he was initially reticient to accept the offer to be grand marshal.
"I was as uncomfortable as hell," he said. But now, "I understand that this could change lives."
Not only is DOMA's end coloring the parade, more athletes then ever are marching in this year's event, said Pfeiffer, who's been involved with organizing the parade since the '70s.
The Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, and Fire were represented with mascots or players in addition to Davis as the grand marshal.
Pro sports is the "last bastion of macho American attitude," but athletic support of Pride proves that LGBT people are being more accepted.
"We're everywhere," Pfeiffer said. "We represent everyone in society."