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Thousands Celebrate Gay Rights, Marriage At Pride Parade In San Francisco

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Pride Parade Spectators

Thousands crowded downtown San Francisco for the annual Pride Parade, June 30, 2013. (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP/BCN) — Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in downtown San Francisco to watch the city’s 43rd annual Pride Parade on Sunday, and the crowd had even more to celebrate than in previous years: two U.S. Supreme Court victories on same-sex marriage.

The weekend’s celebration came after the high court on Wednesday announced the dismissal of an appeal in the Proposition 8 case and ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. The Supreme Court also gave celebrants one more reason to cheer Sunday when Justice Anthony Kennedy rejected a last-ditch effort by opponents to stop gay marriages in California.

PHOTO GALLERY: Slideshow Of The 43rd Annual San Francisco Pride Parade

Among the thousands at the parade, which included 200 groups who participated this year, were scores of teenage girls, opposite-sex couples and families with children. Crowds were 10 deep on the sidewalks of Market Street.

“You can feel the smiles,” Graham Linn, 42, of Oakland said as he stood on a three-foot-tall building ledge to watch the parade. “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.

Kris Perry and Sandy Stier of Berkeley, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo of Burbank waved from convertibles as a group of people carried cartoon-style signs that read, “Prop. 8-Kapow!” The couples were married on Friday, hours after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed same-sex marriages to resume.

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.”

A motorcade of around 200 motorcycles kicked off the parade, which made its way from Market and Beale streets to the Civic Center. Following the motorcycles were contingents of costumed bicyclists from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and the AIDS Lifecycle.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom walked the route and shook hands with the people while holding his daughter, Montana, who was waving a rainbow flag.

“This is such a historical day,” Larkspur resident Jan Jones said. “We aren’t separate but equal.”

Jones, 75, and her partner Judi Provance, 70, of Larkspur were married in San Francisco City Hall in 2008 before Proposition 8 was passed.

They attributed the recent Supreme Court rulings to Newsom, who permitted the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples while he was mayor of San Francisco in 2004.

“Without Gavin Newsom’s courage, we wouldn’t be here,” Jones said.

Other dignitaries in the parade getting loud cheers included U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and state Attorney General Kamala Harris — two other straight politicians who have been vocal advocates of same-sex marriage.

San Francisco’s parade lineup illustrated how mainstream support for same-sex marriage has become. Companies such as Facebook and supermarket chain Safeway were represented. Police officers and sheriff’s deputies marched while holding hands.

There was also a group that called itself “Mormons for Marriage” that drew enthusiastic applause. The Mormon Church was one of the main sponsors of Proposition 8, the 2008 voter initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage in California.

Sally Abolitz, 53, of Pacifica was holding a sign that read “Engaged: 30 years, married 3 days!” Abolitz and her spouse Catherine Mehrling rushed to San Francisco City Hall to get married in front of their five children on Friday evening.

San Francisco City Hall remained open throughout the weekend 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 Monday.

Parade organizers also held a VIP reception at City Hall for the newlyweds following the parade.

Mehrling described the U.S. Supreme Court rulings as “bittersweet” since a majority of other states have yet to legalize same-sex marriage.

A group of five people walked in the parade wearing masks of the five U.S. Supreme Court justices who voted that sponsors of Proposition 8 did not have legal standing to appeal a lower court ruling in the case.

San Francisco resident Sara Cohbra watched the parade with her husband and two young children who were waving rainbow flags.

“One of the reasons we live in the city is so everyone can celebrate who they are,” she said.

Along the parade route many people were holding signs that read “Free Bradley Manning.” Manning was a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst whose nomination as a Grand Marshal for this year’s parade was revoked last month by the San Francisco Pride Board of Directors.

Couples marching with Marriage Equality USA clasped their partners’ hands in the parade and some were holding signs that showed how many years they have been together.

This year’s celebration held more significance than other years for Berkeley resident Jose Consuelo.

“The energy is very different. As a community we’re celebrating why we’re here. It’s a beautiful thing,” he said.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco, the Associated Press and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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