Saturday, June 28, 2008

Gay Pride celebrating marriage

Photo source

Time to celebrate! Gay Pride events this weekend will commemorate the march toward equality perhaps most remarkably in San Francisco:

Given San Francisco's sizable role in initiating the lawsuits that led California's highest court to strike down the state's bans on same-sex marriage, the city's 38th annual gay pride festival and parade is likely to draw huge crowds this weekend, tourism officials say.

"It's really going to be a Pride like none other," said Joe D'Alessandro, president of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau. "I have never seen so many rainbow flags in this city, along Market Street, on shops, on homes. It's really a situation where the people are celebrating and the city is in a very festive mood."

With 259 marriage license appointments and 284 reservations for wedding ceremonies scheduled at the San Francisco county clerk's office, Friday was on pace to be the city's busiest day for weddings since gay marriage became legal earlier this month. There were 202 license appointments and 115 weddings performed on June 17, the first full day that gay and lesbian couples could get married in California.

Although City Hall will be closed over the weekend, organizers of the weekend's official pride festivities are putting up a wedding pavilion across the street where couples can get information about tying the knot or celebrate newly sanctioned unions.

Gay rights advocates also plan to use the occasion to build support for their campaign to defeat a ballot initiative that would overturn the state Supreme Court's decision by amending the California Constitution to again ban same-sex marriage.

The theme for Sunday's pride parade — "United by Pride, Bound for Equality" — was selected before the state's high court handed down its ruling on May 15....

The SFO Chronicle reported on Thursday:

Already, the same-sex pairs have come from all corners of the United States, including liberal places like Seattle and New York City and conservative bastions such as South Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas.

They've come from other countries, too: England, France, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Canada, Singapore and Hong Kong. And instead of running off to Vegas to tie the knot, one couple from there came to San Francisco to do just that....

...It's up to individual states to determine whether they will recognize the California marriage licenses. New York Gov. David Paterson recently directed all state agencies to recognize same-sex weddings performed elsewhere, but the California licenses will mean nothing in the vast majority of states....

...David Whatley, 31, and Michael Potts, 34, live in Atlanta and know Georgia won't recognize their marriage anytime soon. But when they saw the California weddings on the news June 17, they bought their plane tickets immediately. They purchased wedding rings two days later, arrived at SFO last Friday morning and were married within hours - with a stranger serving as their witness.

"We figured we couldn't wait for Georgia to get onboard. We had to come across the country to do it instead," Whatley said. "We're tired of intolerance. San Francisco's a very forward-looking city, and we're glad to be a part of it."

Tolerance also brings a financial windfall. SFO's "controller's office estimated this week the weddings will add $19.8 million to the city economy by the end of July 2010" and "researchers at UCLA's Williams Institute, reported that residents, non-California couples and their wedding guests could spend a combined $684 million in the state over the next three years."

Gay Pride parades began in 1970 as a homage to the weekend of June 27-29 in 1969, a turning point in LGBTQ history when the Stonewall riots ignited (no pun intended) the liberation movement. Archival footage of the first 1970 march with "commentary by lesbian and gay elders" and other history-makers through 2008 are available at Out at the Center. Description of the film:

Hosted by Laverne Cox, The Center's half-hour show debuts never before seen personal archival footage of the first Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day March up Sixth Avenue to the Sheep Meadow with commentary by lesbian and gay elders who were on the scene; the alumni of Gay and Lesbian Youth of New York talk about their experiences organizing as youth in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and giving back to the youth of today; former Center board president David Nimmons and artist Gary Speziale recall the installation of The Center Show in 1989; writers Amy Hoffman and Stefanie Grant read from their work; Gay City News reporter Sam Oglesby talks to journalist Michael Luongo about his travels as a gay man in the Muslim world and volunteers from Team Center highlight the AIDS Walk of 2008.