SAN FRANCISCO — Cities across the nation were gearing up Sunday for what were expected to be especially well-attended and exuberant gay pride parades following the U.S. Supreme Court decisions restoring same-sex marriages to California and granting gay couples the federal benefits of marriage they were previously denied.
The gay pride celebrations scheduled in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Seattle and St. Louis are annual, and in most cases decades-old events whose tones and themes have mirrored the gay rights movement’s greatest victories and defeats.
This year’s parades, coming on the heels of the high court’s historic decisions, should be no exception.
In San Francisco, the four plaintiffs in the case that led to the end of California’s gay marriage ban will be riding in a contingent organized by the city attorney.
Newlyweds Kris Perry and Sandy Stier of Berkeley, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo of Burbank, were able to marry Friday after a federal appeals court lifted a hold it had put on same-sex marriages while the couples’ lawsuit challenging the ban worked its way toward and then through the Supreme Court.
City officials decided to keep the clerk’s office open throughout the weekend so couples who were in town for the celebration could get married.
On Saturday, defeated backers of the state’s gay marriage ban made a last-ditch effort to halt the ceremonies. Lawyers for the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom filed an emergency petition to the high court asking for a halt to the weddings on the grounds that the decision was not yet legally final. The filing came as dozens of couples filled City Hall in San Francisco to obtain marriage licenses.
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 will become 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 was picked as a grand marshal for the New York parade months ago, before the Supreme Court used her lawsuit to strike down the provision of the act that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman.
“We’re very lucky, sometimes I like to think that when the decisions are made, they keep us in mind,” joked NYC Pride media director Tish Flynn.
In an average year, an estimated 2 million people show up for what is one of the world’s oldest and largest gay pride parades. But Flynn expects a surge in attendance like the one New York experienced two years ago, when the march was held days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo won legislative passage of a measure to legalize same-sex marriage in his state.
In Seattle, organizers of the city’s annual Gay Pride parade were already planning on a larger gathering because Washington voters approved same-sex marriage last November. Voters upheld a law that the Legislature passed earlier in 2012. Since the measure took effect in December, more than 2,400 gay and lesbian couples have gotten married in the state.
Adam McRoberts, spokesman for Seattle Out & Proud, said it is expected that Sunday’s parade will draw record crowds. Tens of thousands of people typically line the route through Seattle’s Downtown and Belltown neighborhoods. McRoberts said the parade would have nearly 200 contingents participating.
In St. Petersburg, Fla., where Florida’s largest gay pride event took place on Saturday, officials also made plans for a record turnout. It normally draws between 80,000-100,000 people, but Eric Skains, executive director of the St. Pete Pride Parade, said about 125,000 participants were expected, largely due to the Supreme Court ruling.
Although Florida is one of a few dozen states that does not recognize same-sex marriage, Skains said now is the time for the local LGBT community to work to change the laws locally and that the defeat of the Defense of Marriage Act “is an opportunity for us to be truly equal under the law.”
This was the 11th year that parade was held in St. Petersburg. The mayor of Tampa, Bob Buckhorn, became the highest-ranking Florida official ever to participate when he walked the parade route on Saturday.
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