At S.F. gay-pride parade, crowds celebrate a ‘breakthrough’

SAN FRANCISCO -- Crowds along the route of the city’s annual gay pride parade Sunday were charged with a new energy from last week’s Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for California couples to wed once again.

A long-sought victory had been achieved, and thousands gathered to celebrate.

“This is a culmination of all the parades before it,” said state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, who rode the parade route in a classic Buick convertible. These “parades were always full of hope, and full of vision, and full of fight and commitment.”

The Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act and dismissed an appeal by backers of Proposition 8, a voter-approved initiative that banned gay marriage in California but had been found unconstitutional by lower courts.


On Sunday, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy denied a request by ProtectMarriage, the sponsors of Proposition 8, to halt same-sex marriages.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order late Friday afternoon that allowed gay marriages to resume in California, a step that Prop. 8 sponsor 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 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 then converged on San Francisco City Hall, believed to be the only government office in California issuing marriage licenses over the weekend.

On Friday and Saturday, 327 marriage licenses were issued to gay couples in San Francisco. The clerk’s office is open again Sunday, according to the mayor’s office.

At Sunday’s parade, dozens of motorcycles were lined up at the start of the route, many of them part of the organization Dykes on Bikes. Some carried rainbow flags. Political figures -- Harris and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee among them -- were also there to take part.

“It feels like a breakthrough,” Lee, sporting a red T-shirt and a Giants cap, said before walking the route.

Adam Schindler arrived in a cowboy hat and a black tank top that said “Bike curious.” A member of the Bay Area Riders Forum, he would be riding in the parade for the second time.


“The city is on fire,” said Schindler, 39, who is straight. “The energy is remarkable.”

Cleve Jones, a longtime gay rights activist, marveled at the evolution that had taken place, and how evident it was in Sunday’s parade.

Jones, 58, first attended the parade 41 years ago. At the time, he said, being gay was criminalized, with special vice units in a number of cities targeting gays. Marriage, he said, “wasn’t even on our radar. The issues were violence, decriminalization.”

But now, he said, the parade has become a citywide celebration, with even major corporations participating. Work remained on tackling such problems as suicide and job discrimination, but it appeared that the mind set of many had shifted.


“We’ve won the hearts and minds of the American people,” he said.


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Twitter: @ChrisMegerian