Recent online poll showed 73% feel organizers should consider moving event to June, but many may not know history of tradition
June is national Pride month in commemoration of the June 29, 1969, Stonewall riots in New York City.
So why is Dallas’ Pride celebration in September?
According to the Dallas Tavern Guild’s website, DallasPride.com, an unorganized march through downtown Dallas in 1972 marked the first semblance of a gay Pride event, but the first official parade didn’t take place until June 1980. Merchants and community leaders ran the celebration.
In 1983, the newly founded Tavern Guild, made up of Oak Lawn area bar owners, assumed all duties and moved the June Pride date back to the third Sunday in September. The move was to honor Judge Jerry Buchmeyer’s decision in Baker v. Wade, which threw out Texas’ sodomy ban. Although the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Buchmeyer’s ruling two years later, the parade remained in September.
According to a recent poll on the Dallas Voice website, 73 percent said it is time for organizers to consider moving Dallas Pride back to June.
Michael Doughman, executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, said when Buchmeyer’s ruling was overturned, Tavern Guild considered moving Pride back to June, but chose to leave it in September.
“At the time, it was because it was a little bit cooler in September,” Doughman said.
The Dallas Gay Alliance took up the issue several years later. William Waybourn, former president of the DGA, said trying to get the parade moved was a “knock-down-drag-out fight.”
Waybourn said members of the Tavern Guild agreed that the weather was better in fall and wanted to keep the event in September. However, Waybourn believes their reasons went further than weather conditions.
“It was more of a commercial decision than a political one,” Waybourn said.
For one, Waybourn said Frank Caven, who owned many of the gay bars, did not want to have to juggle with Houston’s Pride, which is in June and at the time shared some of the same floats. “It was a way to not have resources spread so thinly between the two cities,” Waybourn said.
Doughman, who has been with Dallas Tavern Guild since 1999, said since he has been around the float rumor has never been a factor, and today Lone Star Parade Float Co. makes most of the floats locally.
Doughman said there have been conversations about moving the parade during his tenure but the members of the board have decided it’s better to keep it the same. He said they did not want to compete with the other top cities for Pride since many people come in from out of town — or lose local patrons to other city’s pride events. Not to mention having to contend with the top cities for special guest and grand marshal appearances.
Waybourn said when arguing for the change the AIDS epidemic was in full swing and their attention turned toward fighting the pandemic and taking care of the ailing community.
“At the time AIDS was devastating the community, and we had to spend most of our time and resources on that,” Waybourn said. “They [the Tavern Guild] do a great job running the event, but it’s not a community event.”
Lesbian activist Cd Kirven is among those who believe Dallas Pride should be moved back to June.
“I would rather celebrate Pride during June only because it is a result of the Stonewall riots,” Kirven said. “I feel Pride in its current state is way too commercial and during a pivotal point in LGBT history — upcoming Supreme Court decisions that we expect any day now — we should pay tribute to those who sacrificed for our freedoms.”
But others who commented on the recent DallasVoice.com poll said Pride should be left in September.
“It may help if instead of seeing September as out of step with the world one considers in Dallas we have so much pride we adopted an additional month for a parade,” wrote Pamela Curry. “This gives those of other communities an opportunity to visit Dallas and either participate or just spectate.
Moving the parade to June would put it smack in the middle of temps that consistently kiss the century mark. The following event at the park would be miserable.”
As far as the weather is concerned, temperatures in September and June are “fairly comparable,” according to Kent McGregor, associate geography professor and climatologist at the University of North Texas. Comparing data from the National Weather Service between 1981-2010, June’s high temperature averages 91.3 degrees and September at 88.4 degrees, he said.
“Given the number of very hot summers since about 1998, averages then are probably slightly higher,” McGregor said.
Waybourn said despite all the arguments and rumors, he is just glad Dallas has a successful Pride celebration. “It doesn’t matter when it happens just as long as it happens,” he said. “If it was up to me, I’d have gay Pride every day.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 21, 2013.