Last edited: February 14, 2005

Gay Pride Parades Get Boost From Supreme Court Ruling

Associated Press, June 29, 2003 

SAN FRANCISCO—Only days after a sweeping U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck down laws against sodomy, Gay Pride parades around the country offered gays and lesbians a chance to celebrate a historic political victory that they hope marks a new era of equality and respect.

The celebrations started Saturday with a few scattered events. In Florida marchers unfurled a 900-foot-long rainbow flag in St. Petersburg and carried a simple sign reading “We are legal” in Orlando.

But the biggest celebrations were set for Sunday, when huge annual parades in San Francisco and New York were sure to draw massive, joyful crowds.

In recent years the events have sometimes been as much about partying as politics, but organizers said the Supreme Court ruling added a special feeling to this year’s marches.

“We have a lot to celebrate at this year’s Pride,” said Molly McKay, a spokeswoman for the group Marriage Equality California. “It’s a coming of age.”

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas law banning homosexual sodomy, and issued a sweeping opinion that seemed to stake out new ground for gay rights campaigns.

Laws against gay sex can lead to “discrimination both in the public and the private spheres,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy. Gays and lesbians, he said, are “entitled to respect for their private lives.”

Both supporters and critics of the decision were quick to suggest it could lead to other legal advances for gays and lesbians, including the right to gay marriage, and organizers said a feeling of hope would carry over to the marches and celebrations this weekend.

Joey Cain, president of the board of directors of SF Pride, said the high court’s ruling will be “first and foremost in people’s minds.”

“The parade has always been about gay liberation,” he said. “There will be quite a sense of celebration.”

The gay community in San Francisco got a jump on the festivities Saturday, staging a huge commitment ceremony for gay couples downtown and unveiling a huge pink triangle in the hills above the city.

“This month has been filled with hope,” McKay said, referring to the U.S. Supreme Court decision, pending California legislation to expand the rights of gay couples and a ruling by a Canadian court legalizing gay marriage in that country. “This is a glorious and beautiful time to be queer.”

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