SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Pride Weekend festivities are scheduled to begin in Hillcrest Friday night with the Spirit of Stonewall Rally, a flag raising and a block party.
The celebrations will continue throughout the weekend and include a parade, although without Mayor Bob Filner in the lineup, and a festival featuring an outdoor wedding chapel.
Event organizers said Friday night's 6 p.m. Spirit of Stonewall Rally, named for a 1969 New York City protest against police, was a time to recognize and honor leaders who were working to preserve gains and meet challenges facing the LGBT community. George Takei of "Star Trek" fame will be the keynote speaker.
The rally will be followed by the raising of the Hillcrest Pride Flag.
The second annual Pride of Hillcrest Block Party will follow, in which the area streets will be shut down to accommodate musical acts and dance stages. The event is for those 21 and over.
At 11 a.m. Saturday, the annual San Diego LGBT Pride Parade will begin its 1.5-mile route at Pride Flag Monument, at Normal Street and University Avenue, with La Toya Jackson and Brad and George Takei as its grand marshals.
Filner was listed in the parade lineup, but announced today he decided not to participate following allegations of sexual harassment.
"Although I have participated proudly many years in the past, I am concerned that the current controversy surrounding me could distract from the importance of what the whole Pride movement stands for," Filner said in a statement. "I have no intention of allowing such a distraction."
The parade will however feature a military contingent for a third year.
The U.S. Navy, Region Southwest recently authorized its sailors to wear their uniforms during the parade. Event officials expect more than 300 members of the military to participate, either in uniform or in branch specific t-shirts.
"San Diego has a strong military presence and a large LGBT community, and its important to our LGBT servicemembers that we honor their full identity and service to our country," San Diego LGBT Pride General Manager Stephen Whitburn said.
The parade will conclude about two hours later at the 39th annual Pride Festival in Balboa Park.
The two-day festival along Sixth Avenue near Juniper Street will feature an outdoor wedding chapel, following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month that cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California.
Event organizers said couples may sign up for a 15-minute slot on a first-come-first-served basis by calling (619) 297-7683, ext. 118 or via email at weddingssdpride.org, and must arrange for their own officiants.
The festival will also include eight stages for entertainment, more than 250 exhibitors, cultural presentations and food.