At gay pride parades, rings of joy after court’s marriage ruling – Washington Post

At 10:22 Sunday morning, on the corner of crowded Beale and Market streets, Tara Sorgentoni hopped off a rumbling motorcycle, raced over to her girlfriend and knelt with a small whiteboard containing her marriage proposal.

Friends shrieked as Jennifer Berg, a 43-year-old real estate agent, checked the box — yes — and held up her ring.

“I wasn’t going to do it for a couple more weeks,” said Sorgentoni, 37, a bartender. “But this is a monumental weekend. We can get married in any state we want.”

The San Francisco Pride and Celebration Parade is always big, with about a million observers lining downtown streets to watch an eye-catching array of floats that blend high theater with grass-roots advocacy. But this year, the event added even more buzz, observers said, because of last week’s Supreme Court vote allowing same-sex marriage across the country.

“I’m not big on crowds and don’t often come,” said Andy Ansen, 57, a retired lawyer who stood along two rows of observers lining the parade route. “But this year’s the year to come, the year to be here.”

The 45th annual parade offered much to celebrate. Its grand marshal, Rick Welts, is the president of the Golden State Warriors, fresh off an NBA championship. Welts is also the highest-ranking openly gay executive in men’s professional sports. In addition, rights activists noted the Supreme Court’s other big decision, to uphold tax subsidies that are key to President Obama’s health-care law.

“That affects a lot of LGBT people, perhaps more than marriage does, though marriage is very important in terms of the larger civil rights picture,” said Joey Cain, the president of a gay men’s group called Calamus and a board member of the San Francisco Pride organization.

Cain also noted that the Supreme Court did not necessarily settle the discussion with its historic vote. San Franciscans are especially sensitive to how circumstances can shift. California may have been the second state, after Massachusetts, to allow same-sex marriages, in 2008, but only months later they were halted by Proposition 8. They did not resume until 2013.

“The vote absolutely makes LGBT people say, ‘It looks like this is secure,’ but I have to say, the same thing happened with a woman’s right to control her own body as far as choice and yet it’s being eroded all over the United States,” he said. “We have to keep fighting.”

In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) kicked off that city’s pride parade by presiding over a same-sex wedding in front of the historic Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, according to Newsday. Cuomo noted that it was his first time to officiate a wedding.

Human Rights Campaign staffer David Contreras Turley, 36,and UBS financial analyst Peter Thiede, 35, were married as a crowd cheered and the Beatles’ “Love Is All You Need” played, Newsday reported.

The Stonewall Inn is the site of the 1969 riots that are seen as marking a turning point in the fight for gay rights.

“It’s hard to put feelings into words,” Turley told the paper. “Even though we had gay marriage in New York, this feels different. I feel different.”

New York legalized same-sex marriage in 2011, but this year’s pride parade was expected to draw one of the event’s largest-ever crowds, with as many as 2 million people ignoring rainy weather to pack the streets of Manhattan, organizers told CBS News.

Actor Ian McKellen, in a tan suit and rainbow sash, served as a grand marshal for this year’s parade, alongside director Derek Jacobi and Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, a Ugandan activist.

James Fallarino, a parade spokesman, told CBS that the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling added even more excitement to one of the city’s most raucous celebrations.

“Excited isn’t even a good enough word to describe how much I’m looking forward to today,” he said. “It’s the perfect timing for us. We couldn’t have picked a better time.”

Notable at San Francisco’s parade Sunday was the contingent from the tech giant Apple, which included hundreds of participants wearing white T-shirts and waving rainbow flags, stretching over city blocks. Others were notable for their costumes.

“Do you want padding?” said Theresa Bui, holding a white bra up to a former co-worker, Ben Oude Kamphuis.

Nodding, the 6-foot-7 Dutchman with a Fu Manchu mustache and tattoos on his forearms slipped into his long dress and size 15 clogs. He stood next to his multicolored ’55 Chevy truck, ready to advocate for people with disabilities.

“Today is one of those days I want to celebrate all people,” he said. “Working in the field of disabilities, I see it quite often. People still have a hard time accepting people for who they are.”

A few streets over, Charlie Ballard, a stand-up comedian marching with a Native American support group, wore a tutu adorned by a bouquet of 120 long balloons. He admitted that he had previously never used more than 90. Then the Supreme Court decision came down.

“I really wanted to walk and go full out,” he said.

And then there was Sorgentoni.

As her friends in “Dykes on Bikes” revved their motorcycles, she posed for a picture with Berg and hopped back into the parade.

“Let’s see it,” Danny Payne, a friend, shouted as Berg showed off her ring. “Oh my god!”

She said she had never thought she would get married, until a friend introduced her to Sorgentoni two years ago. Although she was thrilled to be celebrating at the parade, Berg said it would have been fine if the moment had been in some other place, at some other time.

“It’s a beautiful thing for her to propose to me in front of all these people and during gay pride, but she could have proposed to me anywhere,” said Berg. “I still would have said yes.”

Holley reported from Washington.

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