GAY PRIDE MARCHES ON

Supreme Court rul­ing came just in time for an­nual pride pa­rade

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - Rick Loomis

SAN FRAN­CISCO — Mem­bers of the gay- straight al­liance at Napa High School, Car­ley Sol­berg and her friends long dreamed of this mo­ment, when ac­cep­tance would feel a lit­tle more real.

When they could hope to marry just like their straight friends, with full ben­e­fits.

And on Sun­day, the re­cent grad­u­ates cel­e­brated with a throng of tens of thou­sands of oth­ers at San Fran­cisco’s 45th an­nual Pride Pa­rade.

Gay and straight, tourists and beam­ing Bay Area na­tives, fes­tooned in f lags, a hand­ful of them nude ( but not many), joined for the an­nual cel­e­bra­tion made all the more spe­cial by Fri­day’s his­toric U. S. Supreme Court rul­ing on same- sex mar­riage.

Two of Sol­berg’s friends, in rain­bow at­tire, shim­mied up a sign post for a bet­ter view of the Mar­ket Street pro­ces­sion. Sol­berg, 17, mean­while, re­called her amaze­ment Fri­day morn­ing when dozens

of texts f lowed in from friends and fam­ily say­ing “con­grats.”

“They told me they were happy for me, and I told them I was happy for them — be­cause ev­ery­one is con­nected to this po­lit­i­cal change,” she said.

That sense of in­clu­sive­ness per­me­ated the mood Sun­day.

“Straight but not Nar­row,” one man had inked on his bare back. Lila Harper, 3, of Lafayette clutched a rain­bow f lag, a doll and a stuffed an­i­mal. Pinned to her striped sweater was a but­ton: “I [ heart] my les­bian AUNT.”

That would be her greataunt on her dad’s side, who lives in Washington. Lila’s mother and aunt — Erin Harper, 36, and Alexan­dra Harper, 28 — are mar­ried to twins whose aunt is the woman re­ferred to.

It was Fri­day’s rul­ing that prompted them to gather up Lila, 16- month- old Cade and 10- month- old Annabel and head to San Fran­cisco.

“This is a piece of history, a mo­ment in time,” said Erin Harper, who works as a county child ad­vo­cate in­ves­ti­gat­ing abuse. “We wanted our kids to know they were part of it.”

“To be in the place that started it all,” she added, re­fer­ring to the city’s sta­tus as a pi­o­neer in gay rights, “it gives me pride.”

“I’m not gay, but my dog is,” joked 37- year- old Emily McCullough of San Fran­cisco, as Delilah Dan­ger, don­ning red sun­glasses and a rain­bow feather boa, posed for photos in a crate on the back of her com­pact Honda 250 mo­tor­bike.

“I cried when I saw the White House” lighted up in rain­bow col­ors, she said. “I can’t be­lieve that our gov­ern­ment did some­thing so rad­i­cally right.”

In­ter­na­tional trav­el­ers also got in on the ac­tion. Martin Egset- Lin­neke, 41, from Nor­way, guided his son and daugh­ter, ages 11 and 8, through the crowd in their rain­bow capes.

The fam­ily was plan­ning on head­ing to Muir Woods on Sun­day, but 11- year- old To­bias wanted to stay. When asked why, he pon­dered for a mo­ment, then said in a high, clear voice: “For free­dom. Plus, I think it was fun.”

The Pride Cel­e­bra­tion & Pa­rade was long ago planned for this week­end, and although same- sex mar­riage was al­ready le­gal in Cal­i­for­nia, Fri­day’s court rul­ing declar­ing that gays and les­bians have a con­sti­tu­tional right to marry brought added ju­bi­la­tion and grat­i­tude.

Marchers in state Sen. Mark Leno’s pa­rade con­tin­gent drew howls of ap­proval with red signs declar­ing, “I Do.” And some mem­bers of PFLAG — for­merly known as Par­ents, Fam­i­lies and Friends of Les­bians and Gays — car­ried signs that said sim­ply, “We won.”

Melissa and Rachel Stiner, 44 and 45 re­spec­tively, proudly dis­played their li­cense plate, MRSNMRS, be­fore revving their mo­tor­cy­cle to join the Dykes on Bikes con­tin­gent, which tra­di­tion­ally leads the pa­rade down Mar­ket Street.

“We didn’t re­al­ize it was go­ing to come this soon,” said Melissa Stiner, say­ing her re­sponse has been “hap­pi­ness, com­plete and ut­ter awe.”

The cou­ple de­scribed them­selves as “very mar­ried” as they f lashed their rings. They live in the Con­tra Costa County town of Pi­nole and work in the rel­a­tively con­ser­va­tive com­mu­nity of Black­hawk, near Danville.

“I feel a lit­tle more com­fort­able in so­ci­ety,” Stiner said of the rul­ing, not­ing that strangers ap­proached them while they were brunch­ing in Rich­mond on Satur­day to con­grat­u­late them.

For­mer Mayor Gavin New­som should “run for pres­i­dent,” said Rachel Stiner, a spin in­struc­tor. As San Fran­cisco mayor in 2004, New­som pushed the city to be­come the f irst mu­nic­i­pal­ity in the na­tion to is­sue mar­riage li­censes to gay cou­ples.

“He’s for­ward- think­ing,” she said. “He gave us the push we needed.”

In the years since, she said, Black­hawk has shown the cou­ple “ac­cep­tance of who we are as a peo­ple” that is “over­whelm­ing.”

New­som got props from plenty of peo­ple here Sun­day. “Thank You Gavin,” read one pink sign fes­tooned with a heart and car­ried by a marcher in the pro­ces­sion.

Sol­berg also said her ap­pre­ci­a­tion ran deep. “I’m never leav­ing Cal­i­for­nia,” she said.

As Lisa Cormier, 50, of Vallejo pre­pared her red Suzuki mo­tor­cy­cle for the pa­rade, she ref lected on what has been both “a par­tic­u­larly spe­cial week” and “a long time com­ing.”

Cormier and her wife, 55year- old Vi­o­let Decker ( her match­ing mo­tor­cy­cle is, yes, vi­o­let), f irst pub­licly de­clared their com­mit­ment in a do­mes­tic part­ner­ship cer­e­mony in Ne­vada in 2005. Then, in 2008, af­ter the state court le­gal­ized same- sex mar­riage and be­fore Propo­si­tion 8 tem­po­rar­ily brought the mar­riages to a halt, they wed in Napa.

An­drew Muse- Fisher, 21, lives in El Do­rado Hills out­side Sacra­mento and stud­ies at UC San Diego. This was his f irst San Fran­cisco Pride Pa­rade, and he said he had picked out his shirt be­fore Fri­day. The pink shirt pro­claimed, “Le­gal­ize Gay.”

“I wanted to put a D on it. That would have been more ap­pro­pri­ate,” he said as a group of his friends sang and pumped their fists in the air.

Muse- Fisher had read that the rul­ing “could be to­tally yes, to­tally no or some­where in the mid­dle. I was ex­pect­ing some­where in the mid­dle.” He woke up to the texts. “It was emo­tional, but not like in 2013,” when Propo­si­tion 8 was de­feated in court and same- sex mar­riage be­came le­gal in the state again. “That’s when I came out. And it wasn’t just me feel­ing OK with me, it was Cal­i­for­nia. Now it’s the whole coun­try.”

Greg Stelts, 54, an an­a­lyst with Cush­man & Wakef ield, qui­etly em­braced his part­ner, 52- year- old real es­tate agent Mark Ro­drigues, as they con­tem­plated the changes that two short days had brought.

“You get up in the morn­ing and bam, there it is,” Stelts said. “We’re of the age where we would never have thought this could pos­si­bly hap­pen.”

The cou­ple from the East Bay com­mu­nity of Cas­tro Val­ley have been to­gether for more than a dozen years. They wanted to wait to marry, though, un­til So­cial Se­cu­rity ben­e­fits came with it and they were able to rely on spousal health in­sur­ance ben­e­fits across state lines.

They thought, said Ro­drigues, “when it’s real, it’s go­ing to be real.”

“Now it’s real.”

Pho­tog r aphs by Mar­cus Yam Los An­ge­les Times

A FLAG BEARER

marches down Mar­ket Street dur­ing the 45th an­nual San Fran­cisco Pride Cel­e­bra­tion & Pa­rade on Sun­day.

“TO BE I N THE PLACE that started it all, it gives me pride,” fes­ti­val- goer Erin Harper said, re­fer­ring to San Fran­cisco’s sta­tus as a pi­o­neer in gay rights. Above, Face­book em­ploy­ees.

Pho­tog r aphs by Rick Loomis Los An­ge­les Times

PEO­PLE CELEBRATE dur­ing the pa­rade Sun­day, two days af­ter the Supreme Court ruled same- sex mar­riage le­gal in all 50 states.

ALTHOUGH SAME- SEX mar­riage is al­ready le­gal in Cal­i­for­nia, the rul­ing le­gal­iz­ing it so na­tion­wide made this pa­rade par­tic­u­larly spe­cial for par­tic­i­pants.

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