SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Gay rights supporters crowded parade routes in San Francisco, New York and other major U.S. cities to celebrate what once was unimaginable — two Supreme Court victories on same-sex marriage.
The high court gave celebrants one more reason to cheer Sunday when Justice Anthony Kennedy rejected a last-ditch effort by opponents to stop gay marriages in California.
Among the thousands at San Francisco's event, now in its 43rd year, were scores of teenage girls, opposite-sex couples and families with children.
"You can feel the smiles," Graham Linn, 42, of Oakland said as he stood on a three-foot-tall building ledge surveying crowds 10-deep on the sidewalks. "All around you there is a release. There is a vindication, and you can feel it."
The biggest applause went up for the two newlywed couples whose legal challenge of Proposition 8 made it possible for Californians to wed.
The couples — Kris Perry and Sandy Stier of Berkeley, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo of Burbank — waved from convertibles as a group of people carried cartoon-style signs that read, "Prop. 8-Kapow!"
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, who orchestrated the lawsuit, and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who won an Academy Award for the movie about the slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk, marched with them.
"It's so historic," Jeff Margolis, 58, said. "So many of us could never imagine this would happen, that people would be able to do what they want for the rest of their lives."
Loud cheers went to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Attorney General Kamala Harris — straight politicians who have been vocal advocates of same-sex marriage.
San Francisco's parade lineup illustrated how mainstream support for same-sex marriage has become. Companies such as Facebook and supermarket chain Safeway were represented. Police officers and sheriff's deputies marched while holding hands.
There was also a group that called itself "Mormons for Marriage" that drew enthusiastic applause. The Mormon Church was one of the main sponsors of Proposition 8, the 2008 voter initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage in California.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down Proposition 8 and also invalidated part of a 1996 federal law that denied spousal benefits to gay couples. On Sunday morning, Justice Kennedy denied a last-ditch request from the sponsors of Proposition 8, who argued that a lower court on Friday prematurely allowed gay marriages to continue in the nation's most populous state before the high court finalized its ruling.
Ron Prentice, chief executive of the California Family Council, a Proposition 8 sponsor said its legal team will continue to fight to keep marriage between a man and a woman.
"Last week's Supreme Court decision against the federal Defense of Marriage Act has encouraged same-sex 'marriage' supporters across the country who believe it is now 'open season' on marriage in every state," he said in a written statement. "The team continues to work around the clock to identify the best legal strategies to limit same-sex 'marriage' in California, and nationally."
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