Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert declared Saturday “Heartland Pride Festival Day” to cheers and applause at Stinson Park.
In her speech, she lauded the festival for its growth since the first candlelight walk for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in 1985. Stothert said that reflects the inclusiveness and diversity of the movement.
The festival's support for Stothert was a stark contrast to the feedback she received when, as a City Council member, she voted against including gays and lesbians in the city's anti-discrimination ordinances. She instead favored a resolution calling for inclusive workplaces.
Beth Rigatuso, president of the festival, asked participants to put aside differences and respect others.
“To build bridges and have respect, we need to respect others,” Rigatuso said, amid cheers.
Ron Leach, who attended the festival, said he was happy with Stothert's proclamation. He posed for a photo with the mayor following the announcement.
“I believe it was very supportive,” Leach said. “Her heart is in the right place. She has an incredible term to represent the City of Omaha equally.”
Brooke Cortinas, also a festival participant, was pleased with the news.
“I was really glad about it,” Cortinas said. “It's good everyone knows about it and about equality.”
The festival wrapped up Saturday night at the park at Aksarben Village; its annual parade was held Saturday morning in Council Bluffs.