Gay rights supporters crowded parade routes in San Francisco, New York and other major U.S. cities on Sunday — but this year’s pride celebrations were especially lively after a week that saw the Supreme Court issue two major decisions on gay marriage.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down Proposition 8 and also invalidated part of a 1996 federal law that denied spousal benefits to gay couples. On Sunday morning, Justice Anthony Kennedy denied a last-ditch request from the sponsors of Proposition 8 to halt the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses in California.
Same-sex marriage opponents asked Kennedy to step in on Saturday, a day after the federal appeals court in San Francisco allowed same-sex marriages to go forward. The opponents said the appeals court had acted about three weeks too soon when it cleared the way Friday for same-sex marriages to be legal the nation’s most populous state.
Kennedy turned away the appeal with no additional comment just as the gay pride parade was getting underway in San Francisco.
“You can feel the smiles,” Graham Linn, 42, of Oakland said as he stood on a three-foot-tall building ledge surveying the crowds standing 10-deep on the sidewalks. “All around you there is a release. There is a vindication, and you can feel it.”
The biggest applause went up for the two newlywed couples whose legal challenge of Proposition 8 made it possible for Californians to wed.
The couples — Kris Perry and Sandy Stier of Berkeley, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo of Burbank — waved from convertibles as a group of people carrying cartoon-style signs that read, “Prop. 8-Kapow!”
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, who orchestrated the lawsuit, and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who won an Academy Award for the movie about the slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk, marched with them.
“It’s so historic,” Jeff Margolis, 58, said. “So many of us could never imagine this would happen, that people would be able to do what they want for the rest of their lives.”
Loud cheers went to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Attorney General Kalama Harris — straight politicians who have been vocal advocates of same-sex marriage.
San Francisco City Hall remained open on Sunday so couples who wanted to marry could obtain their licenses. Every other clerk in California’s 58 counties will be required to issue same-sex marriage licenses starting today.
The parade in New York City, where the first pride march was held 44 years ago to mark the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots that kicked off the modern gay rights movement, also was a sort of victory lap for Edith Windsor, the 84-year-old widow who challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act after she was forced to pay $363,053 on the estate of her late wife.
Windsor, who was picked as a grand marshal of New York’s parade months before she won her case before the Supreme Court last week, walked up Fifth Avenue during the event and recalled watching it on television in past years with her wife, Thea Spyer, before Spyer died in 2009.
“I love it obviously,” she said. “If someone had told me 50 years ago that I would be the marshal of New York City gay pride parade in 2013 at the age of 8, I never would have believed it.”
In Seattle, the two women who were the first same-sex couple to be granted a marriage license in Washington state after same-sex marriage became legal there last year, Jane Abbot Lighty and Pete-e Petersen, helped raise a giant marriage equality sign featuring a red equal sign on top of the city’s iconic Space Needle for the first time.
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