About Motor City Pride

Motor City Pride is a 501(c)(3) association formed to host the annual Festival and Parade along with other community events to bring people together to celebrate our advancement in equality while working towards our goal of full equality for all Michigan Residents. Motor City Pride’s activities are designed to illustrate how Michigan is a vibrant state for us to live, work, raise our families, and to have fun.


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History of Pride

Michigan's History

new history slides time line


The Michigan Gay Confederation organized Detroit’s very first gay pride march. It was known as “Christopher Street Detroit ’72,” named after the location of the 1969 Stonewall Riots.


The first openly lesbian politician elected in the U.S., Kathy Kozachenko of Ann Arbor, spoke at Detroit’s third march, traveling down Woodward Ave.


The newly formed Detroit Area Gay and Lesbian Council began to organize Detroit’s gay and lesbian pride, titling the event “Celebration ’82.” The group organized a dinner, picnic, memorial service as well as various other events throughout the metro area.


Detroit Area Gay and Lesbian Council held the 1984 Pride Festival on July 1, on Wayne State University’s campus in downtown Detroit.


Michigan Organization for Human Rights hired Craig Covey to begin organizing a pride parade.


Michigan Organization for Human Rights created “Forward Together,” a statewide pride/civil rights parade in downtown Detroit.


Michigan Organization for Human Rights moved their pride parade to Lansing in hopes of attracting more statewide participation and news coverage for the event. The decision was made to memorialize the 20th anniversary of Stonewall. This Lansing march will eventually evolve into what is today Michigan Pride.

Meanwhile Detroit Area Gay and Lesbian Council coordinator Frank Colasonti Jr. and his organization held a pride event in the University of Michigan Dearborn Campus’ Gymnasium. The event was called PrideFest.


Detroit Area Gay and Lesbian Council moved the event into Oakland Community College of Royal Oak.


Michael C. Lary became PrideFest’s coordinator.


Realizing Detroit Area Gay and Lesbian Council and the PrideFest Coordinators had different visions for the event, Lary and a number of others formed South East Michigan Pride, which mainly focused on producing an annual pride festival.


The event was renamed PrideFest Celebration with the tagline “A Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Pride Celebration,” to draw attention to the event.


PrideFest Celebration was moved to the northern campus. It was the first year the event was held outside.


With the assistance of Ferndale city manager Tom Barwin, SEMP moved the event to downtown Ferndale. Later that year, PrideFest Celebration became a project of the Triangle Foundation.


The event was renamed Motor City Pride.


Motor City Pride became organized by a group of volunteers known as the Motor City Pride Planning Committee.



Remaining a project of Triangle’s new name, Equality Michigan, Motor City Pride moves to Hart Plaza, in the heart of downtown Detroit.



In 2017 Equality Michigan assisted Motor City Pride founding its own 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization

This was so the planning committee could concentrate on growing the festival, and to allow Equality Michigan to focus on its core mission of victim services, education and policy work.  The annual festival and parade have grown to over 55,000 participants and featuring over 200 performers.



Motor City Pride LIVE

The COVID-19 pandemic caused Motor City Pride to quickly shift from a live festival and parade to a virtual event that honored the significance of pride celebrations in June. Motor City Pride created a multi-channel virtual pride experience, incorporating many of the elements of a physical pride event to be experienced in a virtual environment. This experience was not a replacement for Motor City Pride 2020 but was designed to allow continued engagement with our audience as plans for a physical festival were placed on hold until the time was right to safely hold a festival for our community.

National History


America’s first gay rights group is established.

World War I veteran Henry Gerber founded the Society for Human Rights in Chicago. The group was the first gay rights group in America, and its newsletter, “Friendship and Freedom,” was the United States’ first recorded gay rights publication.


Biologist and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey publishes Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.

From his research Kinsey concludes that homosexual behavior is not restricted to people who identify themselves as homosexual and that 37% of men have enjoyed homosexual activities at least once. While psychologists and psychiatrists in the 1940s consider homosexuality a form of illness, the findings surprise many conservative notions about sexuality.


Mattachine Society founded

In Los Angeles, gay rights activist Harry Hay founds America’s first sustained national gay rights organization. In an attempt to change public perception of homosexuality, the Mattachine Society aims to “eliminate discrimination, derision, prejudice and bigotry,” to assimilate homosexuals into mainstream society, and to cultivate the notion of an “ethical homosexual culture.”

Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government Report

A Senate report titled “Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in Government” is distributed to members of Congress after the federal government had covertly investigated employees’ sexual orientation at the beginning of the Cold War. The report states since homosexuality is a mental illness, homosexuals “constitute security risks” to the nation because “those who engage in overt acts of perversion lack the emotional stability of normal persons.”

Over the previous few years, more than 4,380 gay men and women had been discharged from the military and around 500 fired from their jobs with the government. The purging will become known as the “lavender scare.”


Homosexuality labeled mental disorder

The American Psychiatric Association lists homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disturbance in its first publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Immediately following the manual’s release, many professionals in medicine, mental health and social sciences criticize the categorization due to lack of empirical and scientific data.


President bans employment of homosexuals

President Dwight Eisenhower signs Executive Order 10450, banning homosexuals from working for the federal government or any of its private contractors. The Order lists homosexuals as security risks, along with alcoholics and neurotics.


First lesbian rights group founded

In San Francisco, the Daughters of Bilitis becomes the first lesbian rights organization in the United States. The organization hosts social functions, providing alternatives to lesbian bars and clubs, which are frequently raided by police.


Research changes clinical perceptions of homosexuality

American psychologist Evelyn Hooker shares her paper “The Adjustment of the Male Overt Homosexual” at the American Psychological Association Convention in Chicago. After administering psychological tests, such as the Rorschach, to groups of homosexual and heterosexual males, Hooker’s research concludes homosexuality is not a clinical entity and that heterosexuals and homosexuals do not differ significantly. Hooker’s experiment becomes very influential, changing clinical perceptions of homosexuality.


The Supreme Court rules in favor of gay rights

After the U.S. Post Office refused to deliver America’s first widely distributed pro-gay publication, ONE: The Homosexual Magazine, the case went to the U.S. Supreme Court — and the court ruled in favor of gay rights for the first time, making it a major landmark case in LGBTQ history.


Sodomy laws repealed in Illinois

Illinois repeals its sodomy laws, becoming the first U.S. state to decriminalize homosexuality.


Reminder Day established

At Independence Hall in Philadelphia, picketers begin staging the first Reminder Day to call public attention to the lack of civil rights for LGBT people. The gatherings will continue annually for five years.


The Mattachine Society organizes a gay rights “Sip-In”

Members of the Mattachine Society stage a “sip-in” at the Julius Bar in Greenwich Village, where the New York Liquor Authority prohibits serving gay patrons in bars on the basis that homosexuals are “disorderly.” Society president Dick Leitsch and other members announce their homosexuality and are immediately refused service.

Following the sip-in, the Mattachine Society will sue the New York Liquor Authority. Although no laws are overturned, the New York City Commission on Human Rights declares that homosexuals have the right to be served.

National Transsexual Counseling Unit formed after riot

After transgender customers become raucous in a 24-hour San Francisco cafeteria, management calls police. When a police officer manhandles one of the patrons, she throws coffee in his face and a riot ensues, eventually spilling out onto the street, destroying police and public property.

Following the riot, activists established the National Transsexual Counseling Unit, the first peer-run support and advocacy organization in the world.


Stonewall Riots

Patrons of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village riot when police officers attempt to raid the popular gay bar around 1am. Since its establishment in 1967, the bar had been frequently raided by police officers trying to clean up the neighborhood of “sexual deviants.”

Angry gay youth clash with aggressive police officers in the streets, leading to a three-day riot during which thousands of protestors receive only minimal local news coverage. Nonetheless, the event will be credited with reigniting the fire behind America’s modern LGBT rights movement.


First Gay Liberation Day (Pride Parade)

First “Pride Parade” was a march along Sixth Avenue from Greenwich Village to Central Park Stonewall Inn Rebellion. Early Gay Pride events were also called Freedom Day or Gay Liberation Day. They were often sparsely attended and encountered protests.


Homosexuality is no longer declared a mental illness.

After years of studies, analysis, and changing cultural attitudes, the American Psychiatric Association’s board of directors removed homosexuality from the official list of mental illnesses, known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a move that was upheld with a vote by the association’s membership.

Sylvia Rivera delivers speech

At the Christopher Street Liberation Day march, Sylvia Rivera, a bisexual transgender woman of Puero Rican and Venezuelan decent, gave an epic speech, stating that transgender people have been part of our community’s activism from the beginning.


First openly gay American elected to public office

Kathy Kozachenko becomes the first openly gay American elected to public office when she wins a seat on the Ann Arbor, Michigan City Council.


Harvey Milk wins seat on San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors

Harvey Milk wins a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and is responsible for introducing a gay rights ordinance protecting gays and lesbians from being fired from their jobs. Milk also leads a successful campaign against Proposition 6, an initiative forbidding homosexual teachers.

A year later, on November 27, 1978, former city supervisor Dan White assassinates Milk. White’s actions are motivated by jealousy and depression, rather than homophobia.


Milk and Moscone assassinated

Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, who was another city supervisor. White had recently resigned to pursue a private business enterprise, but that endeavor eventually failed and he sought to get his old job back. White was sentenced to seven years in prison for manslaughter, which was later reduced to five years. He was released in 1983 and committed suicide by carbon monoxide inhalation two years later.

Gay Pride rainbow flag made its debut in San Francisco

The flag, which had eight colors (sexuality symbolized by hot pink, life by red, healing by orange, the Sun by yellow, nature by green, art by blue, harmony by indigo, and spirit by violet), was designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker at the request of Harvey Milk. It has been adopted worldwide as perhaps the most-recognized symbol of Gay Pride.


Pride flag changed to six colors

Partially due to some fabric colors not being available, the six-color flag, which is in common use today, appeared with red, orange, yellow, green, blue (harmony replaced art as symbolized by blue in the flag), and purple.

National march on Washington, D.C.

An estimated 75,000 people participate in the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. LGBT people and straight allies demand equal civil rights and urge for the passage of protective civil rights legislature.


First story of new rare disease printed

The New York Times prints the first story of a rare pneumonia and skin cancer found in 41 gay men in New York and California. The CDC initially refers to the disease as GRID, Gay Related Immune Deficiency Disorder.

When the symptoms are found outside the gay community, Bruce Voeller, biologist and founder of the National Gay Task Force, successfully lobbies to change the name of the disease to AIDS.


First state to outlaw discrimination

Wisconsin becomes the first U.S. state to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.


ACT UP forms

AIDS advocacy group ACT UP (The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) is formed in response to the devastating affects the disease has had on the gay and lesbian community in New York. The group holds demonstrations against pharmaceutical companies profiteering from AIDS-related drugs as well as the lack of AIDS policies protecting patients from outrageous prescription prices.

Barney Frank becomes second openly gay member of Congress

After spending six years on Capitol Hill, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), voluntarily came out as gay, making him the second openly gay member of congress, and the first to come out voluntarily, in the country’s history.

March on Washington demands president address AIDS

Hundreds of thousands of activists take part in the National March on Washington to demand that President Ronald Reagan address the AIDS crisis.

Although AIDS had been reported first in 1981, it is not until the end of his presidency that Reagan speaks publicly about the epidemic.


Understanding AIDS brochure mailed

The CDC mails a brochure, Understanding AIDS, to every household in the U.S. Approximately 107 million brochures are mailed.

First World AIDS Day

The World Health Organization organizes the first World AIDS Day to raise awareness of the spreading pandemic.


Ryan White Care Act

President George Bush signs the Ryan White Care Act, a federally funded program for people living with AIDS. Ryan White, an Indiana teenager, contracted AIDS in 1984 through a tainted hemophilia treatment. After being barred from attending school because of his HIV-positive status, Ryan White becomes a well-known activist for AIDS research and anti-discrimination.


First Dyke March

The first Dyke March was organized by the radical activist group, The Lesbian Avengers.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” begins

The Department of Defense issues a directive prohibiting the U.S. Military from barring applicants from service based on their sexual orientation. “Applicants… shall not be asked or required to reveal whether they are homosexual, ” states the new policy, which still forbids applicants from engaging in homosexual acts or making a statement that he or she is homosexual. This policy is known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”


World’s largest flag was gay

Gilbert Baker was commissioned to make the world’s largest rainbow flag for the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The flag used the six-color design that is used today and measured thirty feet wide. The Guinness Book of World Records confirmed it as the largest flag in the world, but it has since lost the title.


Court rules for protections against discrimination

In the case of Romer v. Evans, the United States Supreme Court decides that Colorado’s 2nd amendment, denying gays and lesbians protections against discrimination, is unconstitutional, calling them “special rights.”

Defense of Marriage Act becomes law

President Clinton signs the Defense of Marriage Act into law. The law defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman and that no state is required to recognize a same-sex marriage from out of state.


President expands EOE rights to Federal Employees

President Clinton issued Executive Order 13087 expanding equal opportunity employment in the Federal government by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Matthew Shepard killed in Laramie, Wyoming

Shepard was approached by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson at the Fireside Lounge in Laramie; all three men were in their early 20s. McKinney and Henderson decided to give Shepard a ride home. They subsequently drove to a remote, rural area, and proceeded to rob, pistol-whip, and torture Shepard, tie him to a fence and left him to die. Many media reports contained the graphic account of the pistol-whipping and his fractured skull.

Coretta King calls on civil rights community

Coretta Scott King, widow of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., calls on the civil rights community to join the struggle against homophobia. She receives criticism from members of the black civil rights movement for comparing civil rights to gay rights.


First Presidential proclamation of Pride Month

President Clinton issued Proclamation No. 7203 for Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.


Vermont takes a huge step toward same-sex marriage legalization

Vermont became the first state in the country to give same-sex couples the right to enter into civil unions — legal partnerships which would grant those couples the same rights and benefits as those in legal marriages.


Gilbert Baker made another giant rainbow flag

It stretched a mile and a quarter across Key West, Florida.

Sodomy laws not constitutional

In Lawrence v. Texas the U.S. Supreme Court rules that sodomy laws in the U.S. are unconstitutional.


Massachusetts becomes the first state to legalize gay marriage

The court finds the prohibition of gay marriage unconstitutional because it denies dignity and equality of all individuals.

In the following six years, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa and Washington D.C. will follow suit.


World’s largest Gay Pride celebration

The Guinness Book of World Records named Sao Paulo’s parade the largest Gay Pride celebration in the world, with 2.5 million attendees. They have not lost that title since. Other major Pride parades are not too far behind, with New York at roughly 2 million participants, and San Francisco at roughly 1.7 million.


LOGO hosts presidential candidate forum

Sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, the Logo cable channel hosts the first American presidential forum focusing specifically on LGBT issues, inviting each presidential candidate. Six Democrats participate in the forum, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, while all Republican candidates decline.


Proposition 8 becomes law in California

California voters approve Proposition 8, making same-sex marriage in California illegal. The passing of the ballot garners national attention from gay-rights supporters across the U.S. Prop 8 inspires the NOH8 campaign, a photo project that uses celebrities to promote marriage equality.


Presidential proclamation of Pride Month

President Obama issued Proclamation No. 8387 for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. In this proclamation the President pointed to the contributions made by LGBTQ Americans both in promoting equal rights to all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and in broader initiatives such as the response to the global HIV pandemic. The President ended the proclamation by calling upon the people of the United States to “turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.”

President same-sex partners memorandum

President Obama signs a Presidential Memorandum allowing same-sex partners of federal employees to receive certain benefits. The memorandum does not cover full health coverage.

The Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act becomes a law

The Matthew Shepard Act is passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama on October 28th. The measure expands the 1969 U.S. Federal Hate Crime Law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

Matthew Shepard was tortured and murdered near Laramie, Wyoming on October 7, 1998 because of his sexual orientation.


Judge rules Prop 8 unconstitutional

A federal judge in San Francisco decides that gays and lesbians have the constitutional right to marry and that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. Lawyers will challenge the finding

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repealed

President Obama officially revoked the anti-gay, discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, which prevented openly gay Americans from serving in the U.S. armed forces.


Judge rules Prop 8 unconstitutional

A federal judge in San Francisco decides that gays and lesbians have the constitutional right to marry and that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. Lawyers will challenge the finding


New York legalizes gay marriage

New York State passes the Marriage Equity Act, becoming the largest state thus far to legalize gay marriage.


The Pentagon held its first Pride event

Gay members of the military talked about the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and the importance of being able to discuss their families and loved ones with fellow servicemen and women.


SCOTUS strikes down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which became a law in 1996, declared that marriages between gay or lesbian couples were not recognized by the federal government, meaning those couples could not receive legal benefits — like Social Security and health insurance — that straight married couples could. But in 2013, the Supreme Court ruled DOMA to be unconstitutional, which meant same-sex couples married in their own states could receive those federal benefits.


President Obama acknowledges the LGTBQ community in the State of the Union address

For the first time in U.S. history, the words “lesbian,” “bisexual,” and “transgender,” were used in the president’s State of the Union address, when President Obama mentioned that, as Americans, we “respect human dignity” and condemn the persecution of minority groups.

Obama calls for end to conversion therapy

After the tragic suicide of a transgender teenager who was subjected to Christian conversion therapy, President Obama publicly called for an end to the dangerous practice meant to change people’s sexual orientation or gender identities.

Sexual orientation is added to the military’s anti-discrimination policy

Though “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed in 2011, sexual orientation was still not a protected class (unlike race, religion, sex, age, and national origin) under the Military Equal Opportunity Policy — until June of 2015, when the U.S. Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter, announced that it would officially be added to the anti-discrimination policy.

Love wins

With a 5-4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court declares same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states, meaning all states must allow Americans to get married, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

The military will allow transgender Americans to serve openly in the military

In July of 2015, the U.S. Defense Secretary, Ashton Carter, announced that the military would lift a ban that prevents transgender Americans from serving in the country’s armed forces. This rule went into effect, but now-President Donald Trump rescinded this right, again banning transgender people from the military as of April, 2019.

The Equality Act is introduced

Senators Jeff Merkley, Tammy Baldwin, and Cory Booker, as well as Representative David Cicilline formerly introduced The Equality Act, which would make LGBTQ individuals a protected class and grant them basic legal protections in areas of life including education, housing, employment, credit, and more.


The Stonewall Inn will become a national monument

The Obama administration announced that they are preparing to designate New York’s Stonewall Inn, the site of those historic riots in 1969, the first-ever national monument dedicated to gay rights.

The Obama administration publicly supports transgender students

Amid anti-transgender movements throughout the country, President Obama and his administration issued a directive to all public schools that transgender students should be allowed to use the restrooms that reflect their gender identity. Again, President Trump has reversed these gains, enacting, and proposing numerous anti-trans policies.

Pulse nightclub shooting

A gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others in the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.


Death of Gilbert Baker

Baker described himself as “gay Betsy Ross.” The title was fitting, as it was Baker who hand-dyed and stitched the very first rainbow flag in 1978.

According to one of Baker’s longtime friends, Baker never sought a trademark for his rainbow flag design. “It was his gift to the world,” his friend said. “He told me when the flag first went up that he knew at that moment that it was his life’s work.”

Baker was also responsible for using the pink triangle as a symbol for gay rights — a deliberate move that reclaimed it after the Nazis used it to identify homosexual men in concentration camps in World War II.


LGBTQ candidates sweep the midterms

More than 150 LGBTQ candidates were elected into office in the 2018 midterm elections, putting a historic number of queer or transgender politicians in positions of power. These wins happened “from the U.S. Congress to governors’ mansions to state legislatures and city councils,” Annise Parker, president and CEO of the Victory Institute and Victory Fund, told NBC News.


New York City will honor LGBTQ activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera with monuments

Just ahead of Pride 2019, New York City announced it will erect a monument in Greenwich village dedicated to Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, activists who played critical roles in both the Stonewall riots and the NYC queer scene in general. The two started Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.) in 1970, an organization dedicated to helping LGBTQ people experiencing homelessness. The monument will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, according to the New York Times.