SAN FRANCISCO – Gay rights supporters crowded parade routes in San Francisco, New York and other major U.S. cities on Sunday – but this year’s pride celebrations were especially lively after a week that saw the Supreme Court issue two major decisions on gay marriage.
Among the thousands at San Francisco’s event, now in its 43rd year, were scores of teenage girls, opposite-sex couples and families with children.
“You can feel the smiles,” Graham Linn, 42, of Oakland said as he stood on a three-foot-tall building ledge surveying the crowds standing 10-deep on the sidewalks. “All around you, there is a release. There is a vindication, and you can feel it.”
The biggest applause went up for the two newlywed couples whose legal challenge of Proposition 8 made it possible for Californians to wed.
The couples – Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, of Berkeley, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, of Burbank – waved from convertibles as a group of people carrying cartoon-style signs that read, “Prop. 8-Kapow!”
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, who orchestrated the lawsuit, and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who won an Academy Award for the movie about the slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk, marched with them.
“It’s so historic,” Jeff Margolis, 58, said. “So many of us could never imagine this would happen, that people would be able to do what they want for the rest of their lives.”
Loud cheers went to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Attorney General Kalama Harris – straight politicians who have been vocal advocates of same-sex marriage.
San Francisco’s parade lineup illustrated how mainstream support for same-sex marriage has become. Companies such as Facebook and supermarket chain Safeway were represented.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down Proposition 8 and also invalidated part of a 1996 federal law that denied spousal benefits to gay couples. On Sunday morning, Justice Anthony Kennedy denied a last-ditch request from the sponsors of Proposition 8 to halt the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses in the nation’s most populous state.
The parade in New York City, where the first pride march was held 44 years ago to mark the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots that kicked off the modern gay rights movement, also was a sort of victory lap for Edith Windsor, the 84-year-old widow who challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act after she was forced to pay $363,053 on the estate of her late wife.
“I love it, obviously,” she said. “If someone had told me 50 years ago that I would be the marshal of New York City gay pride parade in 2013 at the age of 84, I never would have believed it.”