Capital Pride is an annual LGBT pride festival held in early June each year in Washington, D.C. As of 2007, the festival was planned and produced by Whitman-Walker Clinic, and is the fourth-largest gay pride event in the United States.[1]



The festival was first held in 1975. Deacon Maccubbin, owner of the LGBT bookstore Lambda Rising, organized the city's first gay pride event, a one-day community block party held on 20th Street N.W. between R and S Streets N.W. in Washington, D.C. (the same block where Lambda Rising was then located). Two pickup trucks, one loaded with beer and another with soft drinks, served the crowd. About 2,000 people attended and visited about a dozen booths and vendors. In a surprising political move indicative of the growing political power of gays and lesbians in the city, several candidates for the D.C. City Council also attended and shook hands for several hours.[2][3][4][5]

By 1979, the festival was drawing more than 10,000 attendees.[2] Washington Mayor Marion Barry, elected the previous November, attended Gay Pride that year—as he would for the rest of his time in office.[6]


File:Deacon maccubbin.jpg

Deacon Maccubbin (in purple shirt), founder of Capital Pride, riding the Lambda Rising float in the gay pride parade in 2003.

The P Street Festival Committee formed in 1980 to take over the growing event. The Committee established a board of directors to oversee planning and administer the festival's finances, and widened planning and participation to include a number of prominent LGBT organizations in the D.C. metro area. Gay Pride Day (as the festival was then known) moved that year to Francis Junior High School at 24th and N Streets N.W., next to Rock Creek Park.[2][3] By 1981, the parade route had also become well-established. The parade began at 16th Street N.W. and Meridian Hill Park, traveled along Columbia Road N.W. and then Connecticut Avenue N.W., and ended at Dupont Circle.[4][7]

1983 was the year the first woman and person of color was named Grand Marshall of the Gay Pride Day parade. In 1984, festival organizers began bestowing the "Heroes of Pride" award to members of racial and ethnic minorities who make a difference in their communities.[3]

Attendance at Gay Pride Day events reached 11,000 people in 1981,[6] 15,000 in 1982,[4] and 20,000 in 1983.[7] By 1984, the one-day festival had become a week-long series of meetings, speeches, dances, art exhibits, and parties.[8] At its 10th anniversary in 1985, D.C. Gay Pride Day drew an estimated 28,000 attendees to the street festival and parade.[9] But attendance began varying dramatically from year to year in the late 1980s. In 1986, only about 7,000 people watched the parade, and another 1,000 stayed for events at Francis Junior High.[10] A year later, attendance was estimated variously between 7,000 and 10,000 people.[11] Attendance stabilized by the 1990s, however. The parade and festival reached more than 25,000 attendees in 1994,[2] and soared to more than 100,000 by 1996.[12]


The District's African American gay community sponsored the first "Black Lesbian and Gay Pride Day" on May 25, 1991. The event was created not as a competitor to the June gay pride event but rather as a way of enhancing the visibility of the African American gay and lesbian community.[13]

The same year, the Gay Pride Day parade and festival moved away from its traditional date for the first time. Beginning in 1975, the event had normally been held on Father's Day. But organizers moved the event a week forward in 1991 to give gay men a chance to spend the day with their families. 1991 was also the year that the street festival expanded to more than 200 booths, and the first year that active-duty and retired American military personnel marched in the parade. The latter event made national headlines when U.S. Air Force Captain Greg Greeley, who led the active-duty group, was later questioned by military security officers and told his pending discharge was on hold because of his participation in Gay Pride day. No further action against Greeley was taken, and he eventually received an honorable discharge.[3][14][15]

The festival began to suffer from financial difficulties in the early 1990s. Rain during the parade and street festival significantly reduced attendance several years in a row. Unfortunately, festival organizers had decided, as a cost-saving move, to not take out weather insurance. The festival lost significant amounts of money, and came close to bankruptcy.[12][16]

File:Federal Plaza, Washington, DC.jpg

Looking southeast at Freedom Plaza, the site of the Capital Pride street festival from 1995 to 1997.

In 1995, One In Ten, a D.C.-based arts organization which hosted the Reel Affirmations film festival, assumed responsibility for organizing Gay Pride Day events.[12] One In Ten moved the street festival from Francis Junior High to Freedom Plaza near the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue N.W.[17] The parade route also changed. Instead of traveling westward to finish at Francis Junior High School, the parade now began at the school, moved east along P Street N.W. to 14th Street N.W., and then south on 14th Street to Freedom Plaza.[2][18]

However, the financial and organizational strain of producing the event proved too heavy for this relatively small arts group. In 1997, Whitman-Walker Clinic joined One In Ten as a co-sponsor of the festival, and the event was renamed Capital Pride. The street festival was moved off Freedom Plaza and onto Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. between 14th and 10th Streets N.W.[2] Corporate sponsorships also rose dramatically, reflecting the festival's growing commercial nature. Corporate sponsorships reached $247,000 in 1999, up from $80,000 in 1998.[19]


Whitman-Walker Clinic became the sole sponsor of Capital Pride in 2000. The festival was moved to Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. between 4th and 7th Streets N.W., and the festival's main stage repositioned so that the United States Capitol building was in the background. As a cost-saving move, in 2002 the parade was moved to early evening on Saturday while the festival continued to occur on Sunday afternoon.[2][20] The same year, the number of parade contingents reached 200 for the first time.[3][21]

In 2004, Capital Pride reached 100,000 attendees. The event attracted more than 200,000 people in 2006, making it the fourth-largest gay pride event in the United States. The festival now includes four major dance parties, a youth prom, a transgender dinner, and a Mr. and Ms. Capital Pride Leather competition.[1][22]

On January 11, 2008, Whitman-Walker Clinic disclosed, for the first time in years, the financial status of Capital Pride. WWC revealed that the 2007 Capital Pride festival ran a deficit of $32,795 on $167,103 in revenue. The Clinic also reported that this included reimbursing itself for $100,000 in "up-front money" to pay for festival-related expenses occurred far in advance of the festival. Twelve other local organizations were reimbursed $28,000 in up-front money as well.[23]


Capital Pride was originally called Gay Pride Day. It changed its name to Gay and Lesbian Pride Day in 1981, and to Capital Pride in 2000.

The event was initially organized in 1975 by an unincorporated group of friends, business people and activists. In 1980, the group incorporated as the P Street Festival Committee. Financial problems and growing concerns about the organization's inclusiveness led the Committee to disband in 1990 in favor of a successor organization, Pride of Washington.[5] Further financial problems led Pride of Washington to transfer the event to a local LGBT arts organization, One In Ten, in 1995. In 1997, One In Ten partnered with Whitman-Walker Clinic to co-produce the festival. Whitman-Walker Clinic became the sole sponsor in 2000, and as of 2007 is still the sole sponsor of Capital Pride. The event is billed as a fund-raiser for the Clinic, although net revenues are also shared with other organizations.[24]

A community board of 11 LGBT organizations in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area assist Whitman-Walker Clinic in organizing Capital Pride. Whitman-Walker Clinic assigns a full-time staff member to Capital Pride, making this individual the event's only full-time employee. This individual acts as the executive director of the festival, and coordinates day-to-day operations, secures sponsorships, and oversees logistics. The current community board includes:

Recent controversies

Shortly after Capital Pride 2005, Robert York, the Whitman-Walker staffer who had served as executive director of Capital Pride since 1999, unexpectedly resigned from the Clinic and as Capital Pride organizer. York's departure followed a series of resignations by the Clinic's upper- and middle-level managers. York was replaced by Clinic staff member David Mallory.[25]

Capital Pride has continued to suffer financial problems as well. In the summer of 2005, Whitman-Walker Clinic asked the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights legislative and political lobbying group, for an emergency donation of $30,000. The Clinic also asked D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams to waive more than $40,000 in street closing and police overtime fees. Unnamed sources quoted by the Washington Blade, a local LGBT newspaper, said that Whitman-Walker's financial problems were spilling over into Capital Pride planning and that without the additional assistance the festival might have been significantly curtailed. Whitman-Walker officials strongly disputed the claims without denying that the financial requests had been made (and granted).[26]

Financial difficulties at Whitman-Walker Clinic also led to speculation that the health organization may seek to spin off Capital Pride as an independent body or permit another group to take it over. The Washington Blade has quoted unnamed Whitman-Walker staffers as saying that Capital Pride consumes a significant amount of the Clinic's time, resources and staff but does not generate large revenues in return. In April 2005, The Center, an organization attempting to build a gay and lesbian community center in the District of Columbia, approached Whitman-Walker officials and asked if they would turn Capital Pride over to them. Whitman-Walker refused the offer, citing The Center's own financial difficulties and small staff.[26]

Speculation turned to fact in 2008. The second week of January 2008, Whitman-Walker Clinic issued a Request for Proposal for one or more groups to replace WWC as the organizer and sponsor of Capital Pride. The deadline for receipt of proposals was January 25, 2008, with a decision to be made by March 14, 2008. At least three groups, including Westminster Presbyterian Church, had submitted proposals by January 11, 2008. Whitman-Walker said it will continue to play a role in Capital Pride, but would no longer be the event's primary sponsor and organizer.[23]

Cultural references

In 2005, an exhibit at The Warehouse Gallery, an art gallery and museum in the District of Columbia, documented the history and meaning of Capital Pride for area residents. The exhibit, "Queering Sight—Queer Insight," opened on June 3, 2005, and ran for a month.[27]

In 2006, Capital Pride was featured in the comedy film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

One In Ten sponsored a second exhibit about Capital Pride's history in 2007. The exhibit was installed at The Sumner School, a city-owned museum in a historic former school building in midtown D.C. The exhibit ran from March to June 2007.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Chandler, "Street Fest Lets Gays Revel in Freedom," Washington Post, June 11, 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Chibbaro, "Politics Take Backseat at Pride," Washington Blade, June 10, 2005.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Tucker, "At 25, Pride Hits Its Stride," Washington Post, June 12, 2000.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Perl, "15,000 Parade, Picnic and Politick On Gay Pride Day," Washington Post, June 21, 1982.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Horwitz, "Thousands Celebrate Gay Pride in Festive March," Washington Post, June 18, 1990.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Russell, "Parade and Festival Highlight Gay and Lesbian Pride Events," Washington Post, June 22, 1981.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Mintz, "Gay Festival Of Celebration Draws 20,000," Washington Post, June 20, 1983.
  8. Battiata, "Gays Celebrate 'I Am What I Am'," Washington Post, June 18, 1984.
  9. Wheeler, "Thousands Mark Gay Pride Day D.C. Gathering's 10th Year," Washington Post, June 17, 1985.
  10. Some estimates of attendance were even lower. The U.S. Park Police estimated the crowd at one-seventh the number announced by event organizers. See: Arocha, "Gays Proclaim Pride, Confront Fear," Washington Post, June 23, 1986.
  11. Thomas, "Thousands Rejoice at Gay Pride Day," Washington Post, June 19, 1989.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Bates and Nguyen, "Celebrating the Right to Celebrate," Washington Post, June 10, 1996.
  13. Gaines-Carter, "Festival Will Celebrate the Pride of Being Black and Gay," Washington Post, May 24, 1991.
  14. Gaines-Carter, "Veterans, Workers to March in D.C. Gay Pride Parade for 1st Time," Washington Post, June 23, 1991.
  15. Air Force officials said they interrogated Greeley because he had access to classified information and they feared someone might use his homosexuality against him.
  16. Ly, "Annual Gay March Celebrates Its 25th Anniversary in 2000," Washington Post, May 18, 2000.
  17. Loose, "Goal of Gay March Is Freedom Plaza," Washington Post, June 15, 1995.
  18. "Capital Pride Takes to the Streets," Washington Post, June 9, 2007.
  19. Allam, "Taking to the Streets With Capital Pride," Washington Post, June 14, 1999.
  20. The District of Columbia provides law enforcement officers to help with street closure, crowd management and general security for Capital Pride, as it does for all events in the city. Capital Pride must reimburse the District for these costs. Moving the parade to Saturday reduced the amount of double-overtime incurred on Sunday, significantly lowering the cost to Capital Pride. See: Chibbaro, "Financial Crisis Prompts Pride Takeover Offer," Washington Blade, July 1, 2005.
  21. Wilgoren, "Paving a Path Toward Main Street," Washington Post, June 9, 2003.
  22. Vargas, "Gays Recall a Silent Great Communicator," Washington Post, June 13, 2004.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Chibbaro, "More Changes Planned for Whitman-Walker," Washington Blade, January 11, 2008.
  24. Net proceeds were anticipated to be $30,000 in 2005. Montgomery, "For Region's Gay Community, A Day of Pride With a Purpose," Washington Post, June 13, 2005.
  25. Chibbaro, "Capital Pride Director Quits Clinic," Washington Blade, July 8, 2005; Haynes, "Parade Showcases Event's Evolution," Washington Post, June 10, 2007.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Chibbaro, "Financial Crisis Prompts Pride Takeover Offer," Washington Blade, July 1, 2005.
  27. Padget, "Gay Pride Infuses Warehouse Exhibit," Washington Post, June 9, 2005.


  • Allam, Hannah. "Taking to the Streets With Capital Pride." Washington Post. June 14, 1999.
  • Arocha, Zita. "Gays Proclaim Pride, Confront Fear." Washington Post. June 23, 1986.
  • Bates, Steve and Nguyen, Lan. "Celebrating the Right to Celebrate." Washington Post. June 10, 1996.
  • Battiata, Mary. "Gays Celebrate 'I Am What I Am'." Washington Post. June 18, 1984.
  • "Capital Pride Takes to the Streets." Washington Post. June 9, 2007.
  • Chandler, Michael Alison. "Street Fest Lets Gays Revel in Freedom." Washington Post. June 11, 2007.
  • Chibbaro, Jr., Lou. "Capital Pride Director Quits Clinic." Washington Blade. July 8, 2005.
  • Chibbaro, Jr., Lou. "Financial Crisis Prompts Pride Takeover Offer." Washington Blade. July 1, 2005.
  • Chibbaro, Jr., Lou. "More Changes Planned for Whitman-Walker." Washington Blade. January 11, 2008.
  • Chibbaro, Jr., Lou. "Politics Take Backseat at Pride." Washington Blade. June 10, 2005.
  • Gaines-Carter, Patrice. "Festival Will Celebrate the Pride of Being Black and Gay." Washington Post. May 24, 1991.
  • Gaines-Carter, Patrice. "Veterans, Workers to March in D.C. Gay Pride Parade for 1st Time." Washington Post. June 23, 1991.
  • Haynes, V. Dion. "Parade Showcases Event's Evolution." Washington Post. June 10, 2007.
  • Horwitz, Sari. "Thousands Celebrate Gay Pride in Festive March." Washington Post. June 18, 1990.
  • Loose, Cindy. "Goal of Gay March Is Freedom Plaza." Washington Post. June 15, 1995.
  • Ly, Phuong. "Annual Gay March Celebrates Its 25th Anniversary in 2000." Washington Post. May 18, 2000.
  • Mintz, John. "Gay Festival Of Celebration Draws 20,000." Washington Post. June 20, 1983.
  • Montgomery, Lori. "For Region's Gay Community, A Day of Pride With a Purpose." Washington Post. June 13, 2005.
  • Padget, Jonathan. "Gay Pride Infuses Warehouse Exhibit." Washington Post. June 9, 2005.
  • Perl, Peter. "15,000 Parade, Picnic and Politick On Gay Pride Day." Washington Post. June 21, 1982.
  • Russell, Brenda A. "Parade and Festival Highlight Gay and Lesbian Pride Events." Washington Post. June 22, 1981.
  • Slevin, Peter. "Striving for Pride, Struggling With Prejudice." Washington Post. June 8, 1998.
  • Thomas, Pierre. "Thousands Rejoice at Gay Pride Day." Washington Post. June 19, 1989.
  • Tucker, Neely. "At 25, Pride Hits Its Stride." Washington Post. June 12, 2000.
  • Vargas, Jose Antonio. "Gays Recall a Silent Great Communicator." Washington Post. June 13, 2004.
  • Wheeler, Linda. "Thousands Mark Gay Pride Day D.C. Gathering's 10th Year." Washington Post. June 17, 1985.
  • Wilgoren, Debbi. "Paving a Path Toward Main Street." Washington Post. June 9, 2003.

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