KEY WEST (CBSMiami/FKNB) – This year’s annual five-day Key West Pride celebration culminated with an all-welcome parade down Duval and Whitehead streets Sunday evening which featured a 100-foot-long rainbow flag, a joint U.S. military color guard, “brides” promoting marriage equality and marchers in bright-colored tutus.
The parade’s grand marshal was openly gay Iraq War veteran Rob Smith, author of the memoir “Closets, Combat, and Coming Out: Coming of Age as a Gay Man in the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Army.”
A decorated former infantryman, Smith also is an LGBT activist who said winning the fight to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is just one part of achieving LGBT equality.
“That is only one small battle in the ultimate war against homophobia and the war and the movement for full LGBT equality,” Smith said before the parade. “I’ve no doubt in my mind that we’ll get there, and events like this are a very important part of that because need to be open, we need to be honest, we need to show our faces — we need to show who we are.”
Many parade entries urged marriage equality, including a car filled with people dressed as brides and a rainbow-draped vehicle with a placard proclaiming its two middle-aged female passengers “Just Married.”
For two marchers, the procession was the setting for a marriage proposal. Washington D.C. resident Danny Lloyd dropped to one knee on Duval Street and proposed to Manny Estrella, who accepted with a fervent hug as crowds cheered.
The parade’s highlight was a 100-foot rainbow flag carried by supporters including Lloyd and Estrella. The flag is a section of a 1.25-mile-long banner constructed in Key West by the original rainbow flag’s creator, Gilbert Baker. It was unfurled along the entire length of Duval Street, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, during the 2003 Pride celebration.
The all-welcome 2014 parade was the culmination of Key West Pride, which began June 11. Festival events included on-the-water adventures, a race for tutu-wearing competitors, pageants and parties, a trolley tour showcasing Key West’s LGBT heritage and a marriage equality “meet and greet.”
The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.