A colorful, celebratory scene at San Francisco gay pride parade

Pride Parade
Sheri Burns and Mary Grunthaner walk the gay pride parade route in San Francisco. They have been a couple for 12 years and were married in 2008.
(Susannah Kay / Los Angeles)

SAN FRANCISCO -- Thousands of people marched in San Francisco’s gay pride parade Sunday, punctuating a week of celebration for supporters of same-sex marriage.

The parade included antique cars, trolleys, fire engines and a boat-themed float filled with revelers in sailor costumes.

The spectators were just as colorful, wearing 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.

Many women stopped to take photos with Bill Martin, 39, and Graham Gautschi, 34, who were wearing white towels on their heads and matching rainbow robes -- like they had just emerged from the shower. They recently moved to San Francisco and said this was their first pride parade in the city.


“My mom gave us these horrible robes seven years ago to be a supportive mom,” Gautschi said. “We finally had a good reason to wear them.”

The parade usually draws about 1 million people, but organizers expected the crowd to swell by 20% because of last week’s court decisions that struck down key parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and cleared the way for gay couples to resume marrying in California in a case over Proposition 8.

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 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 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. 

Along Sunday’s parade route, Sarah Heinen, 20, scaled a lamppost clutching a rainbow flag in her teeth. A computer science student in the Los Angeles area, it was her first pride parade in San Francisco.

“Where else would you want to be after this week?” she said. The court decisions mean, “a lot of the people I love can now love each other legally.”

Joe Rubin marched in the parade quietly, near the front of the group -- but off to the side by himself. His white T-shirt, ball cap and shorts stood out for their simplicity among the sequins and rainbow-colored outfits other marchers wore.


The Brooklyn native moved to the Bay Area in 1990 and has seen the city and parade grow in leaps and bounds since then. A high school physics teacher, Rubin had always missed the parade seemingly every year, busy with something else.

But not this year.

“I’m straight, but it doesn’t matter. It’s time to stand up,” he said. “It’s a matter of equality, a matter of justice.”

For the first time in the parade’s history, the San Francisco sheriff’s color guard took to the front of the parade, flying four flags: one each for the city, state and county -- and one rainbow flag.

“It feels phenomenally different from previous years,” said sheriff’s Capt. Kevin Paulson, who is gay. The department is showing its support for the LGBT community, the newlywed said.

“I’ve been married 28 years, but legally for three days,” Paulson said.

For Miriam Geller and her wife, Terri Westerlund, marching in Sunday’s parade also felt different.

“It feels more celebratory,” said Geller, 46. “This year there’s a real sense of recognition by the federal government.”


They had a sign that, against a bright pink backdrop, read: “Married in 2004 + 2008. 2013 = equality.”

The couple were first married in 2004, they explained, but that was invalidated. They went with a private ceremony afterward, which was not recognized, Geller said.

Then in 2008, they did it all over again, this time it was legal under the law. Geller and Westerlund have twin 8-year-old daughters, Abigail and Miranda.

“It’s kind of validation of what we’ve known for so long,"  Westerlund said of the court’s decision. She said she’s marching to “celebrate a freedom I’ve never had before.”


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