RACINE- "If there are protesters, be kind and inclusive, not mean and offensive," said the Rev. Tony Larsen to the approximately 70 people gathered on the lawn of the Racine County Courthouse.
But there weren't any protests for the third Gay Rights Parade held at noon on Sunday. From the courthouse, the group walked to Monument Square carrying rainbow-colored balloons and streamers and signs which read, "straight not narrow" and "hatred is NOT a family value."
Speakers noted the news from recent days - an investigation into the beating of gay and transgender people in Puerto Rico during the past several months, and the vote on Friday by the New York Legislature to legaliz gay marriage.
Like other gay pride events around the nation, Racine's event marks the Stonewall Rebellion, which happened June 27, 1969, when people pelted police with coins and other objects after they arrested several people at the Stonewall Inn, which was a gathering place for gays in New York City.
"There was no one thing that happened or just one person. There was just a flash of anger," said Jolie McKenna as she read an account of the rebellion. McKenna is executive director of the Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Center of Racine.
Within one year of that date, she said New York City had its first gay pride parade.
Such diversity among people should be celebrated, not disparaged, said Mayor John Dickert.
"I'm Native American on both sides of my family," he said.
In the 1980s it wasn't cool to be Native American or go to powwows as he did, he said. Now it is cool, he said, and people remark on his heritage. He found a lesson.
"It taught me that we spend so much time fighting and dividing," he said. "The things that unite us, unite us. The things that divide us are, in my opinion, a waste of time."
The diversity of Racine is a treasure, he said, which will allow the city to grow in ways that we cannot imagine.
Curt Rude, 59, of Racine, talked about his younger brother who was never as attracted to hunting and fishing as the other males of the family. It must have been a struggle for him to realize his gay orientation, Rude said, and it must have been a struggle for their father. But they all came through.
"He's a great uncle, a great inspiration for my kids," Rude said. "He's a good guy, and I believe everybody should have the same rights."