In San Francisco, where marriage equality began, nearly a decade ago, LGBT San Franciscans were joined by many straight allies for a lively street party on Castro Street, the city's self-described "gayborhood."
In 2004, then San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom opened the marriage equality floodgates when he took the law into his own hands and began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This led to the California State legislature legalizing gay marriage a few years later, until Proposition 8, a voter approved ban on same sex marriage became law in 2008. Prop 8 has since been ruled unconstitutional by a federal district court and then an appeals court.
On June 26, the Supreme Court declined to rule on the constitutionality of Prop 8, meaning that the lower court ruling stands. Same sex marriages will resume in California sometime in July. SCOTUS further declared DOMA--the Defense of Marriage Act--to be unconstitutional.
The mood at the Castro Street celebration was jubilant. As music blared, gay men and lesbians danced together and embraced one another. LGBT seniors, many of whom didn't think they would live to see this day, wept openly. LGBT parents partied with their children.
Victor H. Floyd, Pastor of San Francisco's Metropolitan Community Church, informed SFGN that MCC has been performing same sex weddings for forty-five years. "Today same sex marriages have come one step closer to normal," Rev. Floyd told SFGN. "And to paraphrase Harvey Milk, 'if gay people can make it, anyone can make it.’"
In 1978, Milk, then a member of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors, was murdered at City Hall. He was the first openly gay man in U.S. history to hold a major elective office. Stuart Milk, the late Supervisor's openly gay nephew, was present at the San Francisco party. The younger Milk, who has a home in South Florida, had a message for equality advocates in Florida.
"Right now people in Florida are celebrating even though this ruling does not impact them," Milk said. "But this is hope. You can feel it and taste it. Florida now has that hope."
In a famous speech made during the 1970s, Harvey Milk stated "You gotta give them hope."
For other attendees, the joy was tempered with a reflective sorrow. Patrick Santana, a gay man, carried a sign, which proclaimed "For all my fallen brothers who didn't live to see this historic day, I remember you tonight with love." The other side of Santana's sign listed the names of his late lovers and friends, many of whom were lost to AIDS.
Dancing in the street was the primary order of the day. As gay anthems from iconic artists such as Sylvester and Donna Summer blasted out of loudspeakers, thousands of people partied as they hadn't partied in years.
There were a few speakers. Openly gay Scott Wiener, who currently occupies Harvey Milk's old Board of Supervisor's seat, referred to the "Queer caucus" at San Francisco City Hall. Wiener is one of several openly gay elected officials in the city. Cleve Jones, a personal friend of Harvey Milk, called upon revelers to pay tribute to South African President Nelson Mandela, who's in the hospital fighting for his life.
"South Africa is currently the only nation on earth that recognizes LGBT people in its constitution," Jones stated, as the crowd erupted into applause.
But the fight isn't over, some were quick to point out. Many states still have constitutional bans on same sex marriage, which need to be overturned.
"We have much work to do," said Rabbi Camille Angel, lesbian spiritual leader at San Francisco's Congregation Shaare Zahav, an LGBT temple. "I'm very proud to be part of the Jewish people. 80 percent of Jewish voters voted for marriage equality."David-Elijah Nahmod