SAN FRANCISCO — The crowds come every year, lining Market Street to dance, wave rainbow flags and cheer on the city's gay pride parade.
But revelers celebrated with renewed exuberance Sunday, thrilled by last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision that paved the way for gay marriage to begin again in California.
"Where else would you want to be?" said Sarah Heinen, 20, who scaled a lamppost clutching a flag in her teeth to watch her first parade.
Pride veterans said the crowd was louder and happier than usual, and probably even bigger, surpassing the typical turnout of 1 million people.
"It feels more celebratory," said Miriam Geller, who marched with her wife, Terri Westerlund, and their twin 8-year-old daughters. "This year there's a real sense of recognition by the federal government."
Sealing the deal was Justice Anthony Kennedy's decision to reject a last-ditch attempt to halt gay unions by supporters of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage when approved by voters in 2008.
The decision, announced shortly before the parade began Sunday morning, came "not a moment too soon," said California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris as she prepared to ride in an antique Buick convertible down Market Street.
"This parade is a celebration of all the parades before it," she said.
Dozens of motorcycles, trolleys, fire engines and floats rolled down the street, some blasting music. Near the front of the parade were members of the San Francisco sheriff's color guard.
"I've been married 28 years, but legally for three days," said one member, Capt. Kevin Paulson.
Spectators wore rainbow tutus, superhero costumes, leather pants and occasionally nothing at all. Many stood on trash cans and newspaper boxes to get a better view, and others waved flags and snapped photos with cellphones. A gay couple wearing matching rainbow robes posed for photos with passing women.
Cleve Jones, a gay rights activist who worked with the slain San Francisco gay rights icon Harvey Milk, marveled at the size of the celebration.
"We've won the hearts and minds of the American people," he said. "You see a massive turnout of heterosexual supporters."
One of those people was Joe Rubin, a high school physics teacher marching in his first parade. His white T-shirt stood out among the sequins and rainbow-colored outfits worn by many marchers.
"I'm straight, but it doesn't matter. It's time to stand up," Rubin said. "It's a matter of equality, a matter of justice."
The parade converged on the area around City Hall, where people danced to music, basked in the sunshine or sought shelter in the shade. Some hardy parents pushed strollers with children, squeezing between girls in bikinis and guys in tiny shorts and stockings.
Inside City Hall, marriages continued unabated. Licenses issued Sunday tallied 236, bringing the total to at least 563 in the city since the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals officially allowed gay unions to resume Friday afternoon.
San Francisco was believed to be the only place in California with a clerk's office open through the weekend, and scores of couples queued up, some waiting three hours to complete their ceremonies.
A few wanted to make it official as soon as possible, concerned about the possibility of new legal challenges to gay marriage.
Annie Ebiner, 34, and Jen Berman, 33, drove an hour and a half from their home near Santa Rosa, even though Ebiner is nine months' pregnant. In fact, she was due Friday.
"We weren't certain whether this window [to get married] would stay open," Ebiner said. "When this became available, we wanted to get it done before the baby."
C.J. Price, 45, and Dylan Hatami, 40, marched in the parade with their friends, then headed to City Hall to exchange vows. It wasn't part of their original plan for the day, but at the last minute they decided to make their relationship official.
"As the day progressed, I just started thinking more and more about it," Price said. "I didn't want to waste any more time. We've waited long enough."
Times staff writer Maura Dolan contributed to this story.