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LGBT community celebrates at LA Pride in WeHo

By Darsha Philips

June 12, 2011

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (KABC) -- Hundreds of thousands of people turned out Sunday to join in the celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities at the 41st annual L.A. Pride parade in West Hollywood.

The parade kicked off at 11 a.m. at Crescent Heights Boulevard and continued west along Santa Monica Boulevard to San Vicente Boulevard.

Three-time national figure skating champion Johnny Weir served as the parade's grand marshal. He said that now, more than ever, is the time to stand up and be proud.

"In the last couple of years with so many people having trouble and me being in the spotlight more than ever in my life, I realized that I am proud. I'm so happy to be me and so happy for all the things that I'm born with," Weir said. "I need to show that to the world and I need to show them that it's OK to be different."

The parade has been held yearly since 1970, except in 1973 when infighting over previous year displays left organizers in disarray. The parade was held in Hollywood until 1979, when it was moved to West Hollywood.

Organizers and participants said the event is really about showing pride and bringing awareness to social injustices.

"The days of discrimination against any group should be long gone and over in this country, and unfortunately they're not," said Vallerie Wagner, the vice president of L.A. Pride, and Director of Education at AIDS Project Los Angeles. "We hope that if we can reach one person through this festival or through the parade or through just some face-to-face, one-on-one conversation that normalizes our lives to our heterosexual allies, then I think we've accomplished a lot."

From 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, the festivities prompted the closures of:

-- Santa Monica Boulevard from Fairfax Avenue to Doheny Drive
-- Crescent Heights Boulevard from Romaine Street to Fountain Avenue
-- Norton Avenue from Laurel Avenue to Havenhurst Drive
--All other streets one block north and one block south of Santa Monica Boulevard from Fairfax Avenue to La Peer Drive

The L.A. Pride parade concluded at West Hollywood Park with singers and performers, including comedienne Margaret Cho.

City News Service contributed to this report.