Shouting "Happy pride," as they went, members of Billings' LGBTQ community set out along Second Avenue North Saturday afternoon for the Billings 2018 Pride Parade.

Groups of people spread out along the sidewalk from North 30th Street to North 20th Street cheered and clapped for the group as they walked, roller-bladed and otherwise made their way toward a celebration at North Park featuring speeches, music, food trucks a drag show and other entertainment. 

For the last 25 years, Big Sky Pride Parade has rotated between cities, including a stop last year in Billings that drew thousands.

This year's parade in Billings is the first specifically planned for Billings, said organizer Shauna Goubeaux of 406 Pride.

“More and more cities are wanting to do it themselves and we just felt like coming here once every 10 years didn’t do enough for our community," Goubeaux said. "And so we felt it was time to have a pride for Eastern Montana and Billings. So that was kind of our goal."

About an hour of speeches took place after people got to North Park. The first speaker was Amelia Marquez, who is running for the state legislature in House District 52 in Billings.

Marquez, who is transgender, spoke of the historic nature of her candidacy. 

"My name is Amelia Marquez, transgender, she/her pronouns, and I am proud to let you know that we will be making history this November by sending the very first trans woman of color to our state legislature," Marquez said. 

Later she criticized her Republican opponent Rodney Garcia, for "deadnaming her," referring to Garcia's public comments referring to Marquez by a name that, as a transgender woman, she no longer identifies with. 

Marquez who won a Democratic primary earlier this year, was one of three speakers, including city council member Denise Joy and House District 50 candidate Jade Bahr, who are members of the Billings chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Additional speakers included Rep. Jessica Karjala, Little Big Horn College Athletic Director Cheryl Polacek-Birdhat and Western Native Voice Director Marci McLean and 406 Pride organizer Judy Hanrahan. Democratic House of Representatives candidate Kathleen Williams and Democratic Sen. Jon Tester did not attend, but instead had people read statements on their behalf.

Matt Delao, 38, said he came to the Billings parade with his husband. Delao spent much of his youth in Baker and signed up to join the National Guard while he was still a teenager. 

He said that his time in the military ultimately came to an end as a result of the "don't ask, don't tell," policy that, until it was repealed in 2010, forbid people that were openly gay to serve in the military. 

"I think the reason why we have Pride is to celebrate where we've come from. Twenty years ago I was kicked out of the military for being gay," Delao said. "It lets people know we exist, even though you may not see us everyday, we still exist. I think that's the thing I've experienced in my life, is that just because you might not believe that somebody's gay doesn't mean they don't exist in this world."

Another attendee, Amanda Stewart, said she is a supporter of the LGTBQ community. With rainbow glitter across her eyes, and rainbow paint handprints across her shoulders, Stewart stood in North Park and explained why she was there.

"Right now there's a lot of people that are worried about their lives and I think it's just important we make sure everybody knows we're all human at the end of the day," Stewart said. "And we all live in this world together and we should work together instead of apart."

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