By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com June 11 2014 6:45 AM ET
Gay mayors from across the country were invited to L.A. Pride at Pump Lounge in West Hollywood last week by Frontiers magazine. The event, which brought together luminaries from both politics and entertainment, could perhaps best be summed up by the venue's owner (and Bravo reality star) Lisa Vanderpump, who said, "We’re making progress. Whether it’s one state at a time, whether it’s one mayor at a time, it’s about people being able to come out, be who they are, and be able to make a difference."
In the spirit of the occasion, The Advocate asked mayors John D'Amico (West Hollywood), Ron Strouse (Doylestown, Pa.), and Jerry Pierce (Valley Mills, Texas), for their reasons for pride. With reasons ranging from marriage to religious acceptance to public hand holding, celebs like Jai Rodriguez, Emerson Collins, and Blake McIver also reflected on achievements of their own and accomplishments by LGBT people in general that make them feel proud.
Images courtesy of Connie Kurtew.
Reason No. 1: Marriage!
John D'Amico (mayor of West Hollywood)
"I think what our city has done most this year is celebrate marriage," D'Amico says. "We understood how important domestic partnerships were in 1984 when we were one of the first cities in the country to promote domestic partnerships. We were behind marriage 100 percent then and now. And we understand how that’s not just about two people spending their lives together in love but about all the benefits and all the ways that LGBT people can take care of themselves."
Reason No. 2: Southern Baptist Sissies!
Emerson Collins (Southern Baptist Sissies, Bravo's The People's Couch)
"I produced and starred in a film called Southern Baptist Sissies by Del Shores, and we put it in 15 independent theaters in 15 different cities this year," Collins says. "So it’s been a really exciting journey to share the experience of the struggle of so many LGBT members of the community who grew up in the church. And to have the interaction in so many different cities was really rewarding for our little independent film. So I’m very proud of that."
Reason No. 3: The Time Manipulator!
Blake McIver (ABC's Full House, Bravo's The People's Couch)
"I released my first studio album, The Time Manipulator, and there’s a lot of messages in the record about acceptance and about pride, and about loving who you are and being different and standing out," McIver adds.
Reason No. 4: Groundbreaking Television!
Jai Rodriguez (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy)
"Being a part of the first all-gay cast in network television for Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," Rodriguez says. "But beyond that, being in Rent, playing Angel when I was 18, never even meeting a gay person [at that time], that was pretty interesting, having these crazy things that have happened professionally. But I think the small things they did for society are a bigger accomplishment that I didn’t have much to do with, but I was a part of it."
Reason No. 5: Men Are Holding Hands!
Sean Hemeon (Husbands)
"I really enjoy how [being gay] is becoming a very commonplace, everyday thing," Hemeon says. "I’ve noticed more men holding hands everywhere. More couples are being more and more brave in holding hands … and not just in West Hollywood!"
Reason No. 6: We Conquered The Bullies!
Anthony Pazos (WE tv's L.A. Hair)
"I think, after being made fun of and being beat up in high school, and being called 'faggot' — the whole nine, you know? — I’m proud because we’re unique, and I think we’re all very strong to have to go through ‘the hardship of being gay,'" Pazos says. "I’m proud because we conquered. We’re here, we’re proud … and we dress nice! Let’s get real."
Reason No. 7: Small-Town Mayors!
Jerry Pierce, mayor of Valley Mills, Texas (pictured right, with his son Quinnton)
"What makes me proud is the ability to be free and be myself and who I am, regardless of whether I’m LGBT or not," Mayor Pierce says. "I think our community, our nation, and our world is changing right before our eyes. When I, as a mayor, was elected last year in a small, Christian community in Texas, that speaks volumes. I live in a community of 1,236 people that are all very compassionate Christians, and the fact that I’m gay was never made an issue of. So that tells me, in my heart, that we’re doing the right thing as a community: coming together and not only teaching our own mantra of tolerance but also being tolerant of others who may be against us."
Reason No. 8: Officiating Gay Weddings!
David Cruz (Millionnaire Matchmaker)
"Because I believe in love, and because I always believe in marriage and equality and everything six degrees of that, this is such a great year to celebrate, and it’s such a great year to really look back on how far we’ve come," Cruz says. "I’m officiating over my first wedding this weekend! A good friend had asked me to do his wedding live on a radio show ... and so I couldn’t say no. ... From when I was a 20-year-old to where I’m standing now, we’ve come a long way. And this is such a great moment to celebrate."
Reason No. 9: Online Hits!
Patrick James (The Horizon)
"I’ve had great success in [The Horizon becoming] the most watched Web series in the world," says James, pictured left. "It’s a huge feat from the whole team itself. I think the other night really confirmed that by having the launch in Los Angeles, It’s huge. It makes me very proud."
Reason No. 10: The Activists Who Fought Before Us!
Thor Thorvaldsson, Curtis Lovell (illusionist, escape artist)
"This Pride is a huge accomplishment for my husband and I," Lovell says. "We were married last July, so this year will be amazing. We’re celebrating what many people beforehand have fought for — the equality of marriage. And we’re fortunately for those people who went on the front lines for us, so we can celebrate our marriage this year."
Reason No. 11: LGBT Magazines!
Michael Turner (publisher of Frontiers magazine)
"The passage of marriage and the rapid growth of states accepting it," says Turner, pictured second from right. "I don’t think, 10 years ago, you ever would have dreamt that that would happen. And regarding Frontiers ... we’ve taken four months to relaunch it. And you’re going to see a magazine that has news and lifestyle from Southern California that we’re going to take national. I’m proud of the magazine and I’m proud of my staff, and I’m proud of my business partner [for this accomplishment]. It’s great."
Reason No. 12: Wedding Season in Pennsylvania!
Ron Strouse (mayor of Doylestown, Pa.)
"A couple of weeks ago, we had a dramatic decision from the District Court, which we were expecting six months from now, regarding marriage equality," Strouse says. "So in Pennsylvania, we’re kinda excited these days. As a mayor, one of my responsibilities is to perform marriages, so now I’m fielding two or three calls a day trying to schedule in people who have been partners for a couple years or 40 years, in one case. So that puts a whole new light on the importance of what’s going on. We still have legal discrimination where you can get fired from your job, so we have a long way to go. But we certainly are excited by what’s happened." (photo via Facebook)
IT'S YOUR TURN! Share your reason for Pride in the Comments section below.