Scroll To Top

S.F. pride parade features something new--married couples

S.F. pride parade features something new--married couples

The party still had its traditional leather-clad legions and dramatic drag queens, but this weekend's gay pride parade in San Francisco featured marchers even more radical: married same-sex couples. Gay and lesbian newlyweds hoisting poster-size reproductions of their marriage licenses had a starring role Sunday in San Francisco's 34th annual parade. They were joined by Mayor Gavin Newsom and others who had helped to promote same-sex unions in the history-making wedding march at City Hall earlier this year. Newsom, 36, the straight Irish Catholic Democrat who thrust the marriage debate onto the nation's agenda by directing his administration to certify marriages for same-sex couples, shared grand marshal duties alongside veteran gay rights activists. The first-term mayor's vintage convertible may have been 38th in the parade's 191-contingent lineup, but he received the kind of reception usually reserved for movie stars. He passed down Market Street to sustained applause and shouts of "We love you, Gavin!" and "Ga-vin! Ga-vin! Ga-vin!" easily the event's most popular attraction. When Newsom left his vintage convertible and met the crowd, people pushed over each other to take his picture, get his autograph, or give him a kiss. "He is getting the rock-star treatment because he had the nerve to stand up for the right thing regardless of what it might do to his political career, and we love him for it," said Dennis Wolframski, 51, of San Francisco. After collapsing back in his car, Newsom said there was "a surreal aspect" to being the subject of so much adoration. He also credited the historically open-minded attitude of the city he leads for his decision to grant the marriage licenses. "Today we're celebrating what makes San Francisco right, which is the diversity. It's a very empowering experience," he said, adding that the goodwill he generated has carried over into other aspects of municipal life, such as the grueling budget process. If Newsom was the parade's headliner, several hundred couples who had accepted the city's invitation to wed also received their share of glory while marching behind the mayor's motorcade or in a separate contingent organized by Marriage Equality California, a gay rights group. Along with their months'-old marriage licenses, many couples carried signs announcing that they had been together for decades. Richard Clinton, 60, and his spouse of four months, Larry Bruderer, 57, paraded under a placard declaring their 23-year relationship. "Most of the gays in the United States look to San Francisco as our homeland," Clinton said. "That is what brought me here 32 years ago--freedom." Julie Ansell, 44, and her spouse, Orla O'Keeffe, 38, of San Anselmo, said that compared to last year's parade, the enthusiasm this year was palpable. "This is what marriage is all about, receiving public support," Ansell said. As they walked, some couples responded to the crowd by raising their hands and pointing to their wedding rings. The parade got rolling behind a contingent of Dykes on Bikes, with some of the motorcycle-riding lesbians wearing veils. San Francisco police don't venture an official crowd estimate, but tens of thousands of people typically attend what organizers dub California's largest public event. "Equality has always been a part of [the parade]. This is just the next evolution," said Teddy Witherington, executive director of the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade Committee. "Ultimately, the parade is about who we are and who we love, so the message is central to our community." San Francisco officials issued more than 4,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples earlier this year before the state supreme court intervened and ordered the process halted. The court is expected to rule on the validity of those licenses this summer. With the U.S. Congress set to vote within weeks on a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage, the issue received prominent treatment at gay pride parades nationwide. "Even 10 years ago I would have said that's the wrong issue," said Ed Glorius, at New York's parade with his arms entwined around his partner, Dwight Pollard. "And now I feel very differently." Officially called the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride March, the New York parade commemorates the Stonewall uprising of 1969, when gay bar patrons in Manhattan resisted a police raid. In Atlanta, where the Georgia legislature is considering a law to outlaw not only marriage but any spousal rights for gay and lesbian couples, the mood was defiant. "Every year we see T-shirts, banners, and myriad other implements touting the political messages and wants of a richly diverse community," said Donna Narducci, executive director of Atlanta Pride. "I have a feeling we will outdo ourselves this year in the message department."

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Outtraveler Staff