BOSTON (SHNS) – As governors in other states are “demonizing” LGBTQ people, Gov. Maura Healey — Massachusetts’ first openly gay top executive — said it will be “particularly special” to march in Boston’s Pride parade Saturday alongside Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll.
The celebration, organized by Boston Pride For The People, reflects that Massachusetts is a “great place” to live and to grow families and businesses, Healey told reporters this week. Sen. Ed Markey, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, and some Boston City Council members and state lawmakers are also marching in the parade, said spokesman Matt Wilder.
“I’m really proud to be from Massachusetts, where for a long time through the great work of our Legislature and leadership of so many wonderful advocacy organizations, as well as people who were not afraid to live their lives openly and authentically, we are a state that prizes equality, protects freedoms, protects civil rights, protects the LGBTQ community, and that would be a broader message to people nationally,” Healey said.
Without mentioning certain governors by name, Healey condemned leaders who are “going backwards” by attacking the LGBTQ community, including by banning books, shows and access to health services.
It’s the first parade since 2019, after the COVID-19 pandemic scrambled in-person celebrations and the event’s former organizing group shuttered.
Former Gov. Deval Patrick appears to be the first governor who marched in Boston’s Pride parade, including in 2008 with his daughter Katherine, who had come out as gay a year earlier, said Joan Ilacqua, executive director of The History Project, which documents and preserves LGBTQ+ history in New England.
Patrick served as the parade’s grand marshal in 2014, when then-gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker participated in the event. Baker also marched in 2010.
Ilacqua said former Govs. Mitt Romney, Jane Swift and Paul Celluci didn’t march in the parade and weren’t proponents of LGBTQ+ rights, though former Gov. Bill Weld in 1992 established the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth. At a 1988 Pride festival, people paid $1 to throw an egg at a picture of former Gov. Michael Dukakis, who a decade earlier refused to proclaim an annual Pride week, Ilacqua said.
Yet outside the State House Wednesday, there was a strong showing of support for Pride Month as local drag queens stood alongside Healey, Driscoll, Senate President Karen Spilka, Sen. Julian Cyr, Speaker Pro Tempore Kate Hogan, members of the LGBTQ+ legislative caucus, and other allies. House Speaker Ron Mariano missed the celebration, which featured the rainbow Pride flag being raised, due to traffic, a spokesperson for the Quincy Democrat said.
Cyr, who is openly gay, said Massachusetts must serve as a beacon as politicians in other states “shamelessly exploit the most vulnerable in our community for political gain.”
“We must protect fundamental freedoms that are enshrined in our constitution: freedom of expression, of bodily autonomy, of choice, of parentage, of medically accurate inclusive health care and curricula, of access to gender-affirming care, and of loving who the hell you want to love,” Cyr, a Truro Democrat, said.
Lambasting states like Florida and Texas that have stripped away LGBTQ+ rights and forced adults to go “back into the closet,” Spilka urged people to come live in Massachusetts, where the Ashland Democrat vowed the Senate will protect civil rights, respect identities and promote “all opportunities for success.
Massachusetts’ competitive advantage is rooted in its commitment to the LGBTQ+ community and equity, said Spilka, who called the fluttering Pride flag a reminder that “our commitment to LGBTQ+ rights must remain unwavering, unwavering.”
“No one should have to live in fear because of their sexual orientation or their gender diversity — that is a given fact in Massachusetts,” said Spilka, as she called for ensuring that schools provide safe spaces where students do not fear bullying or rejection. “We must strive to eliminate disparities in health care and housing and ensure that our services are inclusive to all, and we must support our transgender and nonbinary neighbors as they face unique challenges.”
The governor called for expanded mental health resources, as members of the LGBTQ community experience heightened anxiety and depression due to rising homophobia and transphobia.
“I think that should just fuel us and steel us for … the work that we need to do, and that is about protecting and maintaining the protections that we have in place, no matter what comes in the coming weeks or months,” said Healey, who also lamented rising white supremacy and antisemitism. “It also means going further, going further to make sure that we once again are leading this country when it comes to ensuring that love is love and people’s basic rights and humanity are protected.”
In a surprise performance to cap the event, Neon Calypso, a drag queen who identifies as a trans woman of color, jubilantly danced as lawmakers swayed and clapped along to a rendition of Rollin’ On The River. Rep. Sarah Peake, a Provincetown Democrat, said she wanted officials to make a statement that “drag queens are honored and welcome here in Massachusetts” after Tennessee banned drag queens from public property earlier this year.
A former foster care child who’s lived all over the state, Neon Calypso, 30, said she “never felt as much as I do at home (than) right now in front of everybody today.”