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Gay pride parade planners to build on past successes

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As they enter the second decade of staging the borough’s gay pride parade, a dedicated corps of volunteers hopes to lure their largest crowd yet to Jackson Heights Sunday for the 11th annual celebration.

“We’re almost at a dozen years and it’s basically the same group of volunteers who started it in the beginning who are continuing to work on it now,” said Daniel Dromm, the founder and co-chairman of the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee. “Every year it seems to get bigger and better.”

Dromm became the borough’s first openly gay elected official last year when he won a race for Democratic district leader in the 39th Assembly District.

The theme for this year’s parade is Peace Through Pride.

“We’ve managed to pull the whole community together — the bars participate, political organizations participate, religious groups participate,” Dromm said. “It shows the diversity of the gay community.”

The parade also reflects the borough’s remarkable ethnic diversity, with Hispanics constituting a majority of the people who come out for the event, Dromm said.

“Many of these Latinos don’t have pride parades that they can attend in their own countries,” he said. “It’s pretty good that they can go to Jackson Heights and see there is some acceptance and tolerance of being gay in that community.”

The parade’s two grand marshals each represent significant strides the gay community has made in the past year, Dromm said.

State Assemblyman Ivan Lafayette (D-Jackson Heights) supports gay marriage legislation being introduced into the state Legislature and secured a $37,000 funding package for the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee — the largest amount in its history, Dromm said.

Activist Melissa Sklarz fought for the inclusion of transgendered individuals in the state’s recently passed gay rights bill. Although that amendment did not ultimately make it to law, it won the support of 19 state senators, Dromm said.

The past year has also marked a significant change for the Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee, which recently handed control of the Northern Boulevard community center it founded more than two years ago to a new board of directors. The center now boasts a new name, the Queens Rainbow Community Center, as well as its first full-time executive director, Barbra Ann Perina.

The parade steps off at 12:30 p.m. Sunday from 89th Street and proceed down 37th Avenue to 75th Street, where it will disperse into a festival — which runs from noon until 7 p.m. on 37th Road between 73rd and 77th streets.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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