It was a day to celebrate love.
For T.J. Danielson, it was marking a day he thought would never happen in his lifetime. To Jane Reisman, it was honoring how her mom’s attitude toward her being a lesbian was completely turned around. To Tim Wells, it was embracing the bittersweet difficulties of coming of age as a gay person in the 1980s. And to Al Lewis, it was attending his first gay pride event since coming out to his Lutheran congregation.
They were there among thousands — possibly hundreds of thousands — of marchers and observers, lovers and friends and supporters. Many donned their finest rainbow garb for Sunday’s Twin Cities Pride Parade, which drew a boisterous sea of revelers cheering “Love wins!” to the streets of downtown Minneapolis two days after the U.S. Supreme Court’s breakthrough same-sex marriage decision.
Hennepin Avenue’s sidewalks were wall-to-wall with spectators, and the rooftop dining and drinking spots were jammed with onlookers pressed against the rails.
Though official crowd estimates weren’t available, many veterans of previous Gay Pride gatherings in Minneapolis said it was the largest turnout they’d ever seen.
While the festival included some typically raucous behavior and scantily clad participants, at the heart of the activities was an undeniable celebration of love.
There were people like T.J. Danielson of St. Louis Park, who has been with his husband for 18 years and legally married since 2013.
“Truthfully, I never thought I would see it in my lifetime. I was following the blog on Friday at work and almost lost it,” Danielson said of the Supreme Court’s decision, choking up a bit.
In earlier times, he said, gay couples were much less open. Pride Fest “was the safest place you could be … and you couldn’t do it any other time of the year. It’s about time they actually took the sex out of it and realized it’s just love.”
Families have evolved, too, Danielson said. His mother, 90, used to refer to his partner as “his friend,” he said. Now she refers to him as “his husband.”
“She was very upset he didn’t change his name to mine, though,” he said.
Jane and Judy Reisman were watching the Supreme Court blog intensely Friday morning. “It happened so fast,” Jane Reisman said.
That night the pair celebrated at their synagogue, dancing under a chuppah and singing.
“Today we celebrate, but tomorrow we have to go back to work,” said Judy Reisman, 69, referring to other civil rights and LGBT issues.
Before the parade, the Reismans held a photo of Jane’s mom. In that photo she was walking behind a PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) sign.
Jane Reisman’s mom was “totally opposed” to her daughter being gay, but after attending a few PFLAG meetings, she started decorating for a gay prom and demonstrating in public.
“I always tell people to never give up on your parents,” Jane Reisman, 67, said.
Months before her mom died 13 years ago, she walked them down the aisle at their wedding.
“She’s my ‘shero,’ ” Jane Reisman said. “She needed to be here today.”
Sitting with a friend, Tim Wells grabbed a spot on a bench to reflect.
Wells, 52, who grew up in Bemidji, remembers what it meant to be gay for “the older generation.”
“Many thought you’d grow out of it,” Wells said. “It was a horribly sad existence for them.”
And for Wells, “coming of age in the 80s” was just as difficult.
“People were more open, but AIDS was a prevalent factor and governed everything you did,” Wells said.
It was about five years ago when he realized how much the country has grown.
“There’s a shift in thinking here,” Wells said. “I have my life set now, and it’s not so different from our straight and gay friends.”
As glitter filled the air and rainbows took over the streets, Lewis was enjoying every moment of his first Pride event.
At 80, Lewis just recently came out to his Lutheran congregation even though he was married shortly after Minnesota began allowing same-sex marriage in 2013.
Lewis, from the St. Croix area, was at a church meeting discussing gay marriage when he found himself saying he was gay.
“The whole congregation gave me a standing ovation,” Lewis said. “It really changed my life.”
Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.