Organizers of this year's Baltimore Pride celebration have chosen Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to serve as grand marshal in recognition of her support for the gay community.
The GLBT Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland is hosting the annual parade and block party in Mount Vernon and the festival at Druid Hill Park — the largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender gathering in the state — on June 15 and 16.
"Mayor Rawlings-Blake's commitment to the LGBT community has been undoubtedly one of the best records in Maryland and for the City of Baltimore," the center said Tuesday in a statement. It cited "her early position in supporting marriage equality in Maryland" and "her commitment to promoting gender identity anti-discrimination policies and combating LGBT violence in the city."
In the early hours of 2013, Rawlings-Blake officiated at City Hall at several of the state's first same-sex marriages.
Rawlings-Blake had recorded a video supporting such marriages for Marylanders for Marriage Equality.
The GLBT Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland said Rawlings-Blake has been a regular attendee of Baltimore Pride.
Rawlings-Blake said she was honored to serve as grand marshal.
"Those of us who stood up and fought for individual liberty and equality have so much to celebrate," she said in a statement. "This is the first Pride Parade attended by families legally married in the state of Maryland. I am delighted to have the opportunity to rejoice in our great accomplishment with old friends and new revelers at this Baltimore tradition of love, freedom and individuality."
The center for the first time also named two activists of the year for this year's parade. They are Shawnna Alexander, a longtime Baltimore comedy performer, and Jamal Hailey, an advocate for at-risk youth.
"Both individuals commit tireless hours, resources, and heart to the work that they do, and they deserve the recognition for their contributions to the LGBT community," the center said in its statement.