Gay Pride 2013: Supreme Court gives extra reason to celebrate

Gay Pride parades and other celebrations are happening all around the US this weekend. They're an annual event, but last week's US Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage have added to the enthusiasm.

Elaine Thompson/AP
Jane Abbott Lighty, left, and her wife Pete-e Petersen raise a giant marriage equality flag atop the Space Needle Sunday in Seattle. The two, who are the first same-sex couple to be granted a wedding license in Washington State, are marshals in the annual Seattle Pride Parade.

Gay Pride festivities have been in the works around the world for months. But those taking part in this weekend’s parades and other activities in the United States have extra reason to celebrate, thanks to the US Supreme Court.

As it ended its 2013 term, the high court knocked down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and effectively did the same to California’s Prop. 8 ban on same-sex marriage.

While 35 states still define “marriage” as the legal union of one man and one woman (either by statute or in state constitutions), the rulings immediately increased the percentage of Americans living in gay-marriage states from 18 percent to 30 percent.

That’s led many analysts and legal experts – including Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in his sharp dissent in the DOMA case – to conclude that it’s only a matter of time until same-sex marriage is legally recognized nationwide. Public opinion polls are pushing US society and politics in that direction as well.

On Sunday, gay pride celebrations were scheduled in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Seattle, St. Louis, and many other cities and towns.

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, is 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. She was picked as a grand marshal for the New York parade months ago.

In the past, 2 million people have marched or been spectators in New York’s gay pride parade, and organizers expected that number to be exceeded this year. Record crowds were expected in Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco as well.

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.

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.

"We're estimating 1.5 million people will be here,” San Francisco Pride president Lisa Williams told USA Today. "You're going to see a wave of happiness, an outpouring of love and hugs.”

The parade includes more than 200 contingents, USA Today reports, among them local schools, tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, churches, hospitals and a dog rescue group. They are intermixed with city and state politicians and floats featuring loud music, dancing and varying degrees of risqué dress.

On Saturday, an organization supporting California’s Prop. 8 ballot measure – the Arizona-based group Alliance Defending Freedom – filed an emergency petition to the US Supreme Court seeking to halt the immediate lifting of California’s ban on gay marriage, which had led to hundreds of immediate same-sex marriages around the state.

That was rejected by Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had written the 5-4 majority opinion in the case. The Supreme Court issued a brief statement on Sunday regarding the petition: "Justice Kennedy denied the application on his own, without further comment." 
This report includes material from the Associated Press.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.