awaterman@mercurynews.com

SAN JOSE -- Thaddeus Campbell, interim president of Silicon Valley Pride, happily pointed out that Sunday's one-day festival in San Jose is the first Pride festival to have its own app. Further, he hopes that the event will someday be "the most high-tech (LGBT) festival in the country."

Technology is just one of the ways the former San Jose Pride festival is re-branding. Renamed "Silicon Valley Pride" this year to include all the valley's communities, it may not have the scope of San Francisco's internationally known parade and celebration, but the local festival reflects the region's commitment to the same cultural goals.

Although San Jose has a less visible gay community than San Francisco, the city has aligned with the nearby city's legal position on gay marriage.

Last year, Councilmember Ash Kalra led the city's effort to support San Francisco's position against Proposition 8, which defined marriage in California as being between a man and woman. Kalra encouraged the City Council to endorse an amicus brief which went to the Supreme Court. Mayor Chuck Reed voted against the endorsement.

Religious diversity

In June of 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated a federal ban on benefits for same-sex couples. The court also ruled that the backers of Proposition 8 had no standing in either the Supreme Court or the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.


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Practically, this left a 2010 trial court ruling against the proposition in place, allowing same-sex marriage to resume statewide. Opponents of gay marriage have contended there is no federal appellate ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

Sunday's festival attracted a diversity of representatives and attendees -- from the Pastoral Committee, which encourages gays and lesbians to attend Catholic church, to a Marine Corps veteran who supported same-sex marriage.

Michael Phillips, a volunteer for the committee, was concerned that LGBT Catholics would stop going to church, possibly losing an entire generation.

"Once they are of an age where their parents can't force them to go to church, they just quit going, they quit going to Mass, because they don't feel welcome."

Meanwhile, Sue Bowling, a volunteer for the Almaden Hills United Methodist Church, applauded the festival's emphasis on self-expression: she approached and patted an almost-nude Gabriel Mata on the back.

"You know, it's such a family event, but sometimes it's all about partying and letting loose too and being in kind of a safe place to be who you are," said Bowling. "There's nothing wrong with a little shock once in a while," she added.

Peter Moen, Merit Philips and Gary Danze, from left, help the Christ the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church booth at the Silicon Valley Pride Festival at
Peter Moen, Merit Philips and Gary Danze, from left, help the Christ the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church booth at the Silicon Valley Pride Festival at Discovery Meadow in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group) ( Gary Reyes )

A "health pavilion" with 10-12 booths offered services ranging from free 20-minute HIV testing from Santa Clara County Public Health aimed at the "high-risk" population of men who have sex with men, to booths handing out free condoms.

"We're looking at both the physical health of the community," said Campbell, "and the spiritual health of the community."

This year's festival also created a more user-friendly website, and brought in new vendors, gourmet food trucks and entertainment.

But Campbell's goals reach beyond entertainment. He emphasized reaching out to LGBT members in the Asian and Latino communities, who have been less represented at past events.

Company support

And while Symantec had a booth at the festival -- the company has scored 100 percent on the "Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality" index with the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) -- Campbell hopes to attract more big tech companies to the festival in the future.

"If you look at it all those corporations, the Googles, the Yahoos, the Apples and so forth, all of them have large LGBT communities within their employee base," he said. "And so we need to get those corporations on board and fly their flags at this festival."

Representatives from the HRC described most tech companies, including Apple, Google, Yahoo and Cisco, as accepting and not basing hiring decisions on sexual orientation.

"The most common answer from (these companies), is we want our employees to be themselves because they're more productive when they bring their whole selves to work," said Danielle Daley who is on the board of governors with HRC.

Google and Yahoo, among other Silicon Valley companies, were also listed as best places to work on the HRC index.

Chris Stoner, a software engineer who moved to San Jose this past year, described the valley as more open than where she worked previously.

"I was in the closet," she said. "I would have lost my job."

Contact Andie Waterman at 408-920-5064. Follow her at Twitter.com/WaterAndie.