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Fargo Pride rally features marriage proposal

Stacey Lavelle, left, and Julie Ball, kiss on Sunday after Lavelle proposed marriage during a rally following the annual Pride Parade in downtown Fargo. The Christine, N.D., women have been together 3½ years, Lavelle said. The proposal drew a hearty round of applause and cheers from the more than 300 people attending the rally near City Hall. Helmut Schmidt / The Forum

FARGO - Sunday was a day for pride, a parade and a proposal as the metro area's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community celebrated in downtown Fargo.

Hundreds of people lined the route of the annual Pride Parade, with more than 300 flocking to a rally in support of GLBT rights in the park plaza by City Hall.

"I think it's just a testament of what we're seeing: change, not only in Fargo, North Dakota, but throughout the nation, of people having a better understanding of who LGBT people are and how we want to live our lives," said Joshua Boschee, a state House candidate from District 44.

Darrin Gahner of Jamestown, N.D., and Wade Sherwin of Rugby, N.D., walked hand-in-hand down the parade route.

"I think it's terrific," Gahner said of the parade. "It's about time. I'm glad it's growing."

Brightly colored or tie-dyed T-shirts were popular with marchers and spectators alike, some sporting sayings such as "Legalize Gay" or "Gay O.K."

"I just think we need to show our support," said spectator Katie Danielson, of St. Louis Park, Minn.

Danielson, a junior at North Dakota State University, was there with a group of students training as violence prevention educators. "Everyone deserves the same rights that we do," Danielson said.

The High Plains Reader float included two women, Sabrina Hornung and Amanda DeLaPointe, dressed in white bridal gowns, complete with rainbow paper bouquets, bridesmaids and an organist.

John Strand, co-owner and sales director for the arts newspaper, called the parade turnout outstanding.

"Fargo is a progressive-minded community, which is a beacon in the state," Strand said.

He said the city sets the bar high for equal rights and acceptance of all people.

"And everybody's having fun," Strand said.

Cody Rogahn of the Minnkota Health Project, which helps people with HIV or AIDS, their partners and families, in western Minnesota and North Dakota, urged rallygoers to vote against the Minnesota marriage amendment, which would ban same-sex marriage.

"We need to convince them (the general public) that (marriage) is a civil right and it is everyone's right," Rogahn said.

Rallygoers were urged to support representatives who would work to change North Dakota law to make it illegal to discriminate in housing or employment on the basis of sexual orientation.

"When we're not at the table for conversation, we're being served for dinner," Boschee said.

Rally attendees also got a treat that brought tears and cheers.

Stacey Lavelle got up on the podium and called on her partner, Julie Ball, to join her.

"I'm not really a shouter from the rooftops kind of person, but I felt it was necessary," Lavelle said, beginning her proposal.

"You are my rock. I don't ever want to do this without you. And I know we can't get married here. But if you would do me the honor of letting me spend the rest of my life trying to make you as happy as you made me," Lavelle said, dropping to one knee.

While the reply was inaudible, the couple's big kisses afterward were all the "Yes" the crowd needed to break out in cheers and applause.

The couple, from Christine, N.D., will marry in another state, Lavelle said.

"We'll have to work that out later," she said.