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A 'particularly special week' for San Francisco's Pride Parade

As active members of the gay-straight alliance at Napa High School, Carley Solberg and her friends fought hard for this moment, when acceptance would feel a little more real.

When they could hope to marry just like their heterosexual friends, with full benefits.

And on Sunday, the recent graduates celebrated with a throng of tens of thousands of others at San Francisco's 45th annual Pride Parade.

Gay and straight, tourists and beaming Bay Area natives, festooned in flags, a handful of them nude, revelers joined for a day made all the more special by Friday's historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.

Two of Solberg's friends, in rainbow attire, shimmied up to a sign post for a better view of the Market Street procession. Solberg, 17, meanwhile, recalled her amazement on Friday morning when dozens of texts flowed in from friends and family, saying "Congrats."

"They told me they were happy for me, and I told them I was happy for them -- because everyone is connected to this political change," she said.

That sense of inclusiveness permeated the mood Sunday.

"Straight but not Narrow," one man had inked on his bare back. Lila Harper, 3, of Lafayette, Calif., clutched a rainbow flag, a doll and a stuffed animal. Pinned to her striped sweater was a button: "I [heart] my lesbian AUNT."

That would be her great aunt on her dad's side, who lives in Washington. Her mother and aunt -- Erin Harper, 36, and Alexandra Harper, 28 -- are married to twins whose aunt is the woman referred to.

It was Friday's ruling that prompted them to gather up Lila, 16-month-old Cade and 10-month-old Annabel and head to San Francisco.

"This is a piece of history, a moment in time," said Erin Harper, who works as a county child advocate investigating abuse. "We wanted our kids to know they were part of it."

"To be in the place that started it all," she added, "it gives me pride."

"I'm not gay but my dog is," joked 37-year-old Emily McCullough, of San Francisco, as Delilah Danger, donning red sunglasses and a rainbow feather boa, posed for photos in a crate on the back of her compact Honda 250.

"I cried when I saw the White House" lighted up in rainbow colors, she said. "I can't believe that our government did something so radically right."

International travelers also got in on the action. Martin Egset-Linneke, 41, from Norway, guided his son and daughter, aged 11 and 8, through the crowd in their rainbow capes.

The family was planning on heading to Muir Woods today, but 11-year-old Tobias wanted to stay. When asked why, he pondered for a moment, then said in a high clear voice: "For freedom. Plus, I think it was fun."

The annual San Francisco Pride Festival & Parade was long ago planned for this weekend. But Friday's ruling declaring that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry in the U.S. brought added jubilation and gratitude.

Marchers in state Sen. Mark Leno's parade contingent drew howls of approval with red signs declaring, "I Do." And some members of PFLAG -- Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays -- carried signs that said simply: "We won."

Melissa and Rachel Stiner, ages 44 and 45, respectively, proudly displayed their license plate -- MRSNMRS -- before revving their motorcycle to join the Dykes on Bikes contingent, which traditionally leads the parade down Market Street.

"We didn't realize it was going to come this soon," said Melissa, saying her response has been "happiness, complete and utter awe."

The couple described themselves as "very married" as they flashed their rings. They live in the Contra Costa County town of Pinole and work in the relatively conservative community of Blackhawk, near Danville, Calif.

"I feel a little more comfortable in society," Melissa said of the ruling, noting that strangers approached them while they were brunching in Richmond on Saturday to congratulate them.

Former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, said Rachel, a spin instructor, should "run for president."

"He's forward-thinking," she said, referencing his brazen move to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004. "He gave us the push we needed."

In the years since, she said, the couple's community of Blackhawk has shown them "acceptance of who we are as a people" that is "overwhelming."

Newsom got props from plenty of people here on Sunday. "Thank You Gavin," read one pink sign festooned with a heart and carried by a marcher in the procession.

Soldberg, too, said her appreciation ran deep. "I'm never leaving California," she said.

As Lisa Cormier, 50, of Vallejo, prepared her red Suzuki for the parade, she reflected on what has been both " a particularly special week" and "a long time coming."

Cormier and her wife, 55-year-old Violet Decker (her matching motorcycle is, yes, violet) first publicly declared their commitment in a domestic partnership ceremony in Nevada in 2005. Then, in 2008, after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage and before Proposition 8 temporarily brought the marriages to a halt, they wed in Napa, Calif.

Andrew Muse-Fisher, 21, lives in El Dorado Hills outside Sacramento and studies at UC San Diego. This was his first San Francisco Pride Parade and he had picked out his shirt before Friday. Pink, it proclaimed, "Legalize Gay."

"I wanted to put a 'd' on it. That would have been more appropriate," he said as a group of his friends sang and pumped their fists in the air.

Muse-Fisher had read that the ruling "could be totally yes, totally no, or somewhere in the middle. I was expecting somewhere in the middle."

He woke up to the texts.

"It was emotional, but not like in 2013," when a federal judge effectively legalized same-sex marriage in this state. "That's when I came out. And it wasn't just me feeling OK with me, it was California. Now it's the whole country."

Greg Stelts, 54, an analyst with Cushman & Wakefield, quietly embraced his partner, 52-year-old real estate agent Mark Rodrigues, as they contemplated the changes that two short days had brought.

"You get up in the morning and bam, there it is," said Stelts. "We're of the age where we would never have thought this could possibly happen."

The couple from the East Bay community of Castro Valley has been together for a little over a dozen years. They wanted to wait to marry though, until federal Social Security benefits came with it, and the ability to rely on spousal health insurance benefits across state lines.

They thought, said Rodrigues, "when it's real, it's gonna be real.

"Now it's real."

lee.romney@latimes.com

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

2:30 p.m.: This article was been updated with new information throughout.

This article was originally published at 11:14 a.m.

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