Several hundred people gathered Saturday in Downtown Howell for the third annual Pride Parade and rally, sponsored by the Livingston Diversity Council and Pride Alliance of Livingston.
The all ages event brought out individuals and families in a display of support and allyship for the LGBTQ+ community. In addition to games, crafts and musical performances, there were also resource and information booths present from a multitude of groups including the Livingston Family Center, Queer Families Livingston, Free Mom Hugs and Salvation Army.
Addressing the crowd prior to the march through downtown was Livingston Diversity Council Executive Director Nicole Matthews-Creech who briefly discussed a pending resolution to be voted on Monday by the Livingston County Board of Commissioners that would prohibit agencies like the Human Services Collaborative Body from promoting events such as the Pride March.
“The Livingston County Board of Commissioners provides oversight for this group, and they’ve decided that Pride is not within the scope of the mission of human services,” she said. “So they’d like that to be out of the scope and therefore not allowed to be promoted. If you feel that this is an injustice, if you feel that this is discrimination, if you feel that this is not okay, you have the opportunity for your voice to be heard.”
She then encouraged people to either attend Monday’s meeting or contact the commissioners and let their feelings be known.
Howell Mayor Bob Ellis also spoke and talked about his years-long engagement on LGBTQ+ issues, starting from his time in the U.S. Air Force.
“When I was in the military, I worked alongside many colleagues who were forced to hide who they were and stay in the closet due to the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy at that time,” he said. “Once I retired in the end of 2007, I decided to get involved in overturning this policy and try to allow all the service members to serve openly. I joined the Human Rights Campaign and I answered the call for retired senior officers to go to Washington and lobby Congress and the White House to get that policy overturned. And I’m proud today to wear an HRC t-shirt that commemorates that lobbying effort.”
Also present was state Rep. Jennifer Conlin (D-Ann Arbor Twp.), who told GIGO News her reason for attending went beyond her role as an elected official.
“I am a huge ally of the LGBTQ community,” she said. “I have a daughter who identifies as queer and who’s marrying her partner next summer. And so I have been a long advocate of the LGBTQ community. They were huge supporters of mine going into this race.”
Conlin won the newly drawn 48th House District last November, becoming the first Democrat to represent a portion of Livingston County in 30 years. She said she was proud that the new Democratic majority had acted so boldly on human rights issues.
“One of the best moments I’ve had so far was when we added the LGBTQ community to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act,” said Conlin. “I actually got to sit next to Dana Nessel on the floor, our Attorney General, when we all did that vote, which was fantastic. And so, yes, I’m just a huge supporter.”
Following the presentations, the crowd lined up and peacefully marched through Downtown Howell as multiple passing cars honked their horns in support. The march then concluded back on the courthouse lawn where participants continued to enjoy music and fellowship until late in the afternoon.