Hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets of San Francisco Sunday, wearing flamboyant costumes and vigorously waving rainbow flags and enthusiastic signs of support during this year's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade. The event marked the 39th year of the foremost pride celebration in the country and, despite a recent string of political setbacks for the LGBT community in California, lived up to its reputation. Last month the state Supreme Court ruled to uphold the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage passed in November and massive proposed budget cuts are threatening vital community programs for HIV and AIDS as the state faces bankruptcy.
But the mood was upbeat during the weekend long festivities, kicked off on Friday evening by the Trans March, followed by the Dyke March on Saturday and finally culminating on Sunday with the city-wide Pride Parade. As is tradition, the parade was led by The Dykes on Bikes motorcycle gang, followed by an estimated 200 marching organizations ranging from large corporate floats to more intimate local advocacy groups. In recent years, the parade itself has become quite family-friendly, especially last year's parade, which took place during the brief period when gay marriage was legal in the state of California. However, the party held at the end of the parade route, featuring music, food and hundreds of vendors, is still no place for children.
Politics did loom large amidst the festivities. The guest list for a Sunday morning breakfast preceding the parade, hosted by the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, signified the strength of the gay community in California politics. Guests were mostly local and state politicians, including San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Jerry Brown, both gubernatorial contenders for 2010, as well as San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, a candidate for state Attorney General.
The politics weren't all California-specific. Many stressed the importance of repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays in the military, which has recently resurfaced nationally as a contentious issue. There was also recognition that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York's Greenwich Village, an event often viewed as the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. Veterans of Stonewall marched in this year's parade and were followed by an organization calling themselves Stonewall 2.0, a group that formed online through social media, unified by their anger over the passing of Proposition 8.
The formation of groups like Stonewall 2.0 point to a new generation of activists in the San Francisco and California gay communities that have been reignited after Prop 8 passed. This year's parade theme, "To Form a More Perfect Union", emphasized that the community will continue to campaign for equal rights state by state. In her closing remarks to the room full of politicians and social activists, Susan Belinda Christian, co-chair of the Alice B. Toklas breakfast, said, "We supported Barack Obama during his campaign and we support him still but we need to honor his statement that we are the change we've been looking for. That it's up to us."