Thunderous applause for marriage equality at Milwaukee PrideFest

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PrideFest continues through June 8.

Shortly after PrideFest Milwaukee's gates opened on June 6, U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that Wisconsin's ban against same-sex marriage "violates the plaintiffs' fundamental right to marry and their right to equal protection of laws under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution."

A thunderous response was heard from Milwaukee's lakefront, where hundreds had gathered for start of the 27th annual PrideFest.  

At the opening ceremonies, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele announced that marriage licenses were being issued immediately at the Milwaukee County Courthouse. Abele pledged to keep the courthouse open until 9 p.m. that night and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. June 7 to allow couples the freedom to marry.

PrideFest president Scott Gunkel said, "We have never been more proud to call Wisconsin home."

Also at the opening ceremonies, PrideFest presented Community Achievement Awards with the PrideFest Medal to:

• Philanthropist William Radler, who recently made a $1 million donation to the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin.

• Pathfinders, whose Q-BLOK program provides support for homeless LGBT youth.

• American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, for its battle for marriage equality. The ACLU filed the case that led to Crabb's ruling.

An estimated 6,000 people attended the opening day of the three-day PrideFest.

Festival co-producer said it was an opening day unlike any other. "Today is an emotional triumph for all of us. People are so excited to express their pride, their love, and their hope for the future. There is so much happiness in the air, it's intoxicating."

The festival continues through the weekend at the Summerfest grounds, with performances by Steve Grand, Mary Lambert, Big Freedia and Macy Gray on June 7 and Dangerous Muse, Lisa Lampanelli, Sandra Bernhard on June 8.