Rogue Valley's LGBTQ community and allies showed their true colors and support for diversity Saturday, much as they have since 2010.
As Lotus Rising Project took on a new leadership role in the annual Pride Festival, the organizers worked on expanding their reach to communities outside the Ashland area, according to interim executive director Lori Warfield.
Lotus Rising and the Southern Oregon Rainbow Coalition held events over the past week in Medford, Grants Pass, Phoenix and Ashland. In the past, the Ashland Pride Parade has drawn people from as far north as Roseburg.
"We decided we should at least go out to Grants Pass," Warfield said. "Just to honor those people who drive so far."
Hundreds flocked to the streets of downtown Ashland Saturday morning to support the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people with colorful wigs, face paint and T-shirt proclamations ranging from the solemn "We are Orlando" to the less-solemn "Straight Outta the Closet."
The parade was a new experience for a trio of Southern Oregon University marchers carrying signs saying "Pride," "Be Proud of Who You Are" and a drawing of a male symbol and female symbol melting into one.
"This is the first time I've been to a pride," Alice Parker of Forest Grove said. "It was pretty amazing."
Chris Yeo from Sacramento said she hadn't marched in a parade before.
"It solidifies you as part of the the community," Yeo said.
Non-traditional SOU student Diane Long brought her friend and former partner Phenix and their 10-year-old daughter Brecklin to the parade.
"As a parent it's very important to expose kids to diversity," Long said, adding, "As a queer woman it's important not to stay in the shadows."
Marching with the Ashland United Church of Christ, Alexandra Reid wore purple and carried a sign saying "Love and Let Love."
"There's several churches here today," she said as she stood next to her husband, Javan, a former Presbyterian pastor. "Minds and hearts are being opened."
For some LGBTQ youth, a pride parade can be their first coming-out, according to Warfield, who said having religious organizations at pride events can build the youths' self-esteem.
"That's very important for them to see some churches celebrating their religious identity as well," Warfield said.
She added that more generally, the level of support from the community and allies is important.
"Just because we have some of our civil rights doesn't mean we have all of them," Warfield said.
Warfield said the events mark the first time the organization has branching out from LGBTQ youth resources to adult services. Year-round, the organization's only adult service currently is a transgender support group for ages 15 and older, though the nonprofit organization's board is considering adding resources, she said.
— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.