Celebration and hope paired with frustration in locals, advocates and politicians Friday as Las Vegas celebrated the 40th anniversary of its annual Pride parade downtown.
Just before the parade began its march, Mad Ange Khan and Zachary Kelley sat on the edge of a planter along the road, waiting for it to start. Khan said she had never seen a parade before in person, and both were excited to watch a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community of which they are both members.
“It’s always good to have more visibility,” Khan said. “And it’s the 40th anniversary of the parade this year, which is amazing.”
Las Vegas holds its Pride parade in October instead of June, both to avoid the region’s summer heat and to take a year-round approach to celebrating the LGBTQ+ community. Friday’s parade marched from Garces Avenue onto Fourth Street, where it continued north past Bridger Avenue.
Khan said that she was born and raised in Las Vegas and that the city has grown more accepting over the years. She said now she can walk around freely in her unique style.
Unlike Khan, Kelley is originally from South Carolina. He said he came to Las Vegas after a large protest against drag queen story hours made him feel unwelcome in his community.
“I had to get someplace that was more accepting,” Kelley said, “and Las Vegas was a great fit for that.”
Kelley said he is frustrated that other states are so less accepting of members of the LGBTQ+ community than Las Vegas.
“It makes me very sad to know that my home is like that,” Kelley said. “But it makes me very happy to know my new home isn’t.”
‘We’re a little oasis here’
Before the parade started, the Silver State Equality organization sang the praises of Nevada politicians during a news conference.
Andre Wade, the organization’s state director, awarded certificates to Reps. Dina Titus and Steven Horsford, and 41 state legislators, for their work in advancing policies for the LGBTQ+ community.
Wade said the organization advocated for six bills in the last legislative session: Five of those bills were enacted into law.
He said two of those bills granted protections for transgender people, and one of them allowed for name changes on marriage certificates, an issue that was brought to the organization from a member of the community.
Wade said he and some of the legislators he worked with were concerned that a newly elected Republican governor would be a major obstacle for bills promoting LGBTQ+ rights. But they were pleasantly surprised to see Gov. Joe Lombardo sign five of the six bills that passed the Legislature.
Despite the success in the last legislative session, Wade and multiple politicians said there is more work to be done.
State Sen. Dallas Harris said that the Legislature needs to have a supermajority to make LGBTQ+ bills veto-proof.
She advocated for citizens to call their legislators, get involved in campaigns they support and most importantly, vote.
“It feels like we’re a little oasis here,” Harris said. “It’s really difficult to be super optimistic in the kind of environment that we’re in nationwide. But here in Nevada, we’re doing some really good things.”
Titus and Horsford highlighted bills they are working on to push for LGBTQ+ protections on a national level, such as an act to codify protections against LGBTQ+ discrimination in workplaces, housing and public accommodations, an act to protect LGBTQ+ access to health care and an act to integrate LGBTQ+ rights into foreign policy.
Both representatives credited Nevada’s Legislature for its work on the issues.
“That’s what Nevada shows is that we can continue to make progress,” Horsford said. “We need to make that progress all over the country.”