Wedding bells and Pride protests

A whirlwind week of LGBTQ action in San Francisco

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rebecca@sfbg.com ; steve@sfbg.com

The city of San Francisco was a complete whirlwind from June 26 to June 30. First came the historic Supreme Court ruling that ended the ban on same-sex marriage in California and struck down the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act. The historic decision, handed down just before the city's Pride festivities got underway and as a rare heat wave gripped the city, unleashed widespread celebration June 26, culminating with a rally and dance party in the streets of the Castro.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriage, "is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment." According to the majority opinion, "DOMA's principal effect is to identify a subset of state sanctioned marriages and make them unequal."

Hollingsworth v. Perry, the Prop 8 case, was dismissed on standing due to the fact that the State of California refused to defend it in court. That meant the previous ruling invalidating Prop 8, by Judge Vaughan Walker and upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court, was upheld.

City Hall was totally packed at 7am when the Court convened, with hordes of journalists, gay and lesbian couples, and sign-wielding activists in the crowd. Cheers erupted when the decision was announced striking down DOMA. When the Prop 8 statement came down, the room went nuts.

"It feels good to have love triumph over ignorance," said Mayor Ed Lee, who joined Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in escorting a fragile Phyllis Lyon down the stairway. When Lyon married the late Del Martin, they became the first same-sex couple to get legally married in California in 2004.

"San Francisco is not a city of dreamers, but a city of doers," Newsom said. "Here we don't just tolerate diversity, we celebrate our diversity." He thanked City Attorney Dennis Herrera and others who'd contributed to the fight to for marriage equality. "It's people with a true commitment to equality that brought us here."

When Herrera took the podium, he turned to Newsom, and said, "Now you can say, 'Whether you like it or not!'" — a joking reference to Newsom's same-sex marriage rallying cry, which some blamed for boosting the anti-same-sex marriage cause. "We wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for Gavin Newsom's leadership," Herrera continued. "I remember in 2004 when people were saying it was too fast, too soon, too much." Herrera also pledged to continue the fight that began here in City Hall more than nine years ago: "We will not rest until we have marriage equality throughout this country."

Later that afternoon, clergy from a variety of faiths including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and the Church of Latter Day Saints gathered on the steps of Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill for a buoyant press conference to celebrate the court's rulings.

"For 20 years I've been marrying gay and lesbian couples, because in the eyes of God, that love and commitment was real, even when it wasn't in the eyes of the state," said Rabbi Michael Lerner of the Beyt Tikkun Synagogue. "We as religious people have to apologize to the gay community," he added, for religious texts that gave opponents of gay marriage ammunition to advance an agenda of discrimination.

He added that the take-home message of the long fight for marriage equality is, "don't be 'realistic.' Thank God the gay community vigorously fought for the right to be married — because they were not 'realistic,' the reality changed. Do not limit your vision to what the politicians and the media tell you is possible."

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