San Diego Pride Weekend under way in Hillcrest

Parade starts at 11AM, followed by festival

SAN DIEGO - The annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pride Weekend festivities continued in Hillcrest on Saturday with a parade and a festival featuring an outdoor wedding chapel.

The annual San Diego LGBT Pride Parade began its 1.5-mile route at Pride Flag Monument, at Normal Street and University Avenue. The parade route continued west on University Avenue then south on Sixth Avenue, and ended at Balboa Drive at Upas Street.

PHOTOS: San Diego Pride Parade 2013

Singer-songwriter La Toya Jackson, George Takei of "Star Trek" fame and his husband Brad were the grand marshals.

Event officials said George and Brad Takei were chosen for their advocacy for same-sex marriage, anti-bullying efforts and equality. Jackson was picked for her efforts in continuing her late brother Michael's mission to combat HIV and AIDS.

The parade lineup was to have also featured Mayor Bob Filner, but he announced Friday that he decided not to participate following allegations of sexual harassment.

"Although I have participated proudly many years in the past, I am concerned that the current controversy surrounding me could distract from the importance of what the whole Pride movement stands for," Filner said in a statement. "I have no intention of allowing such a distraction."

The parade featured a military contingent for a third year.

The U.S. Navy, Region Southwest recently authorized its sailors to wear their uniforms during the parade. Event officials expect more than 300 members of the military to participate in the parade, either in uniform or in branch specific T-shirts.

"San Diego has a strong military presence and a large LGBT community, and it's important to our LGBT service members that we honor their full identity and service to our country," San Diego LGBT Pride General Manager Stephen Whitburn said.

Event organizers expect more than 200,000 spectators.

"Last year, we topped out at a quarter of a million people across the entire weekend," said Fernando Lopez, who is with San Diego LGBT Pride. "We are excited we are going to blow those numbers out of the water this year."

Reveler Jeffrey Bellinger told 10News, "Every time we are here, we are celebrating levels of acceptance … back in the 60s, where we were fighting for our civil rights, all the way to marriage rights."

The parade concluded at the 39th annual Pride Festival in Balboa Park, which began at noon.

The two-day festival along Sixth Avenue near Juniper Street will feature an outdoor wedding chapel, following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month that cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California. 

The theme of this year's Pride event is "Freedom to Love and Marry."

Event organizers said couples may sign up for a 15-minute slot on a first-come-first-served basis by calling (619) 297-7683, ext. 118 or via email at weddings@sdpride.org, and must arrange for their own officiants.

The festival will also include eight stages for entertainment, more than 250 exhibitors, cultural presentations and food.

Jackson will serve as the MC on the festival's main stage Sunday night.

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