SAN FRANCISCO — Finnlandia McGowan, 58, awoke before sunrise in her San Rafael home on Sunday morning and drove into San Francisco. It was her first time attending a gay pride parade in the city, and she wanted the right spot.
Wearing a white dress and a wide-brimmed straw hat, she bought a $2 rainbow ribbon from a sidewalk vendor. Then McGowan unfolded her blue chair right behind the metal barricade on Market Street, halfway down the parade route, and placed flowers in the armrest's cup holder. And she opened an umbrella and draped it with tie-dye streamers.
It was only 5:30 a.m. when she arrived, and she passed the time reading the Wall Street Journal and waiting for the sun to poke between the buildings.
"It's a historic moment for equal rights," she said.
Only handfuls of people milled around Market Street two hours before the parade's beginning, but more soon arrived. Rainbows were everywhere, painted on faces, on socks, on shirts and flags.
The parade usually draws about 1 million people, but organizers expect the crowd to swell by 20% because of last week's court decisions.
On Sunday, the Supreme Court rejected an emergency request to stop same-sex marriages in California, a lawyer for the gay couples who sued said.
Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., one of the lawyers who challenged Proposition 8, said he was informed by the court that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy denied a request by ProtectMarriage, the sponsors of Proposition 8, to halt the marriages.
Boutrous said that Kennedy, who handles petitions from the Western states, did not comment on the decision.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order late Friday that allowed gay marriages to resume in California, a step that ProtectMarriage said was premature and in violation of procedural rules.
The 9th Circuit normally waits 25 days after a Supreme Court case is decided before making any subsequent rulings. But in a surprise move, a three-judge panel that included liberal jurist Stephen Reinhardt lifted a hold the court had placed on a 2010 injunction ordering state officials to stop enforcing the gay marriage ban.
Couples from throughout the state have converged on San Francisco City Hall, believed to be the only government office in California issuing marriage licenses over the weekend.
In the first hour of business on Saturday morning alone, San Francisco officials issued about 100 marriage licenses. All told, 246 were granted and 188 couples were married on the first full day of legal, post-Proposition 8 marriage.
When Tom Rothgiesser and George Lucas (no, not that one) arrived at the Civic Center to cap off half a century of togetherness, they did not need a marriage commissioner to officiate.
The 79-year-olds brought their own Superior Court judge, a retired jurist with a pedigree. Judge James Warren is a longtime friend and the grandson of Earl Warren, the legendary U.S. Supreme Court justice who advanced civil rights nationwide.
Warren said his grandfather would have been thrilled.
"Equal protection under the law was the most important thing to him," he said. "He was rabidly in support of it."
Rothgiesser and Lucas met in South Africa, and when they came to the United States marriage was never seen as a possibility. "The idea was preposterous," Rothgiesser said.