Energized by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage, a rainbow display of drag queens, LGBT community members and their allies colored the streets of The City on Sunday for the San Francisco Pride Celebration and Parade.
The landmark court decision, which on Friday bestowed same-sex couples the constitutional right to marry, was so important to Marin resident Rachel Rogers, 54, she refused to go on a work trip out of town.
Instead, Rogers opted to celebrate the 45th annual event Sunday with Karen Julius, 63, whom she legally married in Marin County six years ago.
They donned matching tie-dyed heart T-shirts they made together the night before, and Rogers waved a flag which read “BORN THIS WAY” in multi-colored letters.
“It’s special anyway but this weekend is even more historic. We wanted to make sure we were here today,” said Rogers, who had to hide her lesbian identity growing up in Huntsville, Ala. “We’re absolutely thrilled, especially since we have so many friends in the Deep South.”
Julius, who marched with the late Harvey Milk, the first gay person elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, said Sunday’s parade signified great strides in acceptance for people like herself.
“This is a much happier march. People are laughing and smiling, people can be themselves,” Julius said. “There has been a lot of change.”
Positive vibes from the court decision radiated from the more than 240 parade entries, 23 community produced stages and venues, 300 exhibitor booths, some 100,000 people along the parade route and more than one million people at the weekend events by Civic Center, according to Gary Virginia, president of the San Francisco Pride board.
Even the tech sector, often targeted by activists in The City, got a break.
Members of the #MyNameIs campaign have been furious at Facebook’s refusal to back off its real-name policy that enables users to request that the social network block drag queens and others not using their legal names. In a close vote in May, the Pride board decided to keep Facebook in the parade, so campaign members loosely planned to block the company’s entry Sunday. But that “would be just too complicated,” said Lil Miss Hot Mess, 31, an organizer with the campaign.
Campaign members, invited to march with the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, instead focused on distributing tens of thousands of stickers and flyers for their cause. They plan to tackle Facebook at a future date.
“People were supportive of us and understood our message,” Lil Miss Hot Mess said. “So I think it was better than to be having a confrontation.”
Other tech giants were well-received. Among the hundreds of people who marched for Apple was Milagros Delallata, the sister of an Apple employee who went to be with her niece Athena Weiland, 19, who came out as lesbian a year ago.
“It’s nice to know that when you are ready to get married, it won’t just be a commitment – it will be a wedding that is legal,” Delallata told Weiland, who said she felt “happy and free.”
At the main stage outside City Hall, Reverend Cecil Williams of Glide Memorial Church officiated vows between Hydie Downard, 74, and her partner of 33 years, Beate Siedler, 66. The newlyweds, former San Francisco residents who moved to Oakland, could have gotten married earlier but said it was much more meaningful in light of the decision that guarantees the right nationwide.
“It was a dream come true,” Downard said. “The love from the crowd was so intense that it lifted us up.”
Despite Downard and Siedler’s wedding and the very likely record attendance, Virginia considered this year’s Pride, themed “Equality Without Exception,” as just the beginning of a new chapter.
“Today we celebrate, tomorrow we get back to work, because with federal housing and employment, we still don’t have equal rights,” Virginia said. “You can get married but can be shut down for bringing your wedding photo to work, so there’s a lot more work to do.”