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Pensacola PRIDE Week Highlights Pensacola LGBT Community

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Pensacola PRIDE, celebrating the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, kicks off Saturday with a week-long slate of festive and educational events.

There’s even more to celebrate this year, since Florida became the 36th state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Doug Landreth, president of Gay Grassroots of Northwest Florida, is confident the U.S. Supreme Court will expand it nationwide by the end of this month. That would, among other things, clear up the current legal hodgepodge among states.

“Some states will recognize any marriage if it’s a reciprocal thing from any other state,” said Landreth. “Some will recognize heterosexual marriages but will not recognize same-gender marriage. We’re looking for the Supreme Court to level the playing field.”

Landreth says the theme for this year’s annual Celebration Ball is “Finally We Can.” That was originally the title of the Gay Grassroots newsletter in January, which announced that Florida’s wedding chapels were open to same-sex couples.

Rev. Jim Merritt, pastor of Holy Cross Metropolitan Church in Pensacola, began performing same-sex weddings almost immediately after the Supreme Court gave its blessing to Florida.

“Many couples have waited for 20 years or more for a day like this,” said Merritt last January. “So this is going to be a historic moment; not only for Florida but also for these couples whose families will be impacted in ways that they’ll never forget.”

Merritt, along with Rev. Julie Kain of Pensacola’s Unitarian Universalist Church, will be at Seville Square on Saturday to perform services for those wanting them. But Gay Grassroots’ Doug Landreth says that turnout may not be as high as previous years, when the ceremonies could only be symbolic.

“Now that [gay] marriage is legal, our couples are finding that, just like heterosexual couples have done for so many years, are going to plan their own personal and unique wedding,” Landreth said.

The events on tap for Pensacola PRIDE Week also serve as a reminder that, while marriage equality is one step towards total equality, there are other steps yet to be taken.

“Employment, workplace discrimination, housing discrimination,” Landreth said. “School bullying is still a big issue based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Adoption is still a bit of a contentious area.”

For a rundown of the events during Pensacola PRIDE week, visit the group’s Facebook page, or go online to www.ggnwfl.com.