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Thursday, August 16, 2018

By Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

SAN FRANCISCO — Members of the gay-straight alliance at Napa High School, Carley Solberg and her friends long dreamed of this moment, when acceptance would feel a little more real.

When they could hope to marry just like their straight friends, with full benefits.

And on Sunday, the recent graduates celebrated with a throng of tens of thousands of others at San Francisco’s 45th annual Pride Parade.

Gay and straight, tourists and beaming Bay Area natives, festooned in flags, a handful of them nude (but not many), joined for the annual celebration made all the more special by Friday’s historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.

Two of Solberg’s friends, in rainbow attire, shimmied up a sign post for a better view of the Market Street procession. Solberg, 17, meanwhile, recalled her amazement Friday morning when dozens of texts flowed in from friends and family saying “congrats.”

“They told me they were happy for me, and I told them I was happy for them — because everyone is connected to this political change,” she said.

That sense of inclusiveness permeated the mood Sunday.

“Straight but not Narrow,” one man had inked on his bare back. Lila Harper, 3, of Lafayette clutched a rainbow flag, a doll and a stuffed animal. Pinned to her striped sweater was a button: “I (heart) my lesbian AUNT.”

That would be her great-aunt on her dad’s side, who lives in Washington. Lila’s mother and aunt — Erin Harper, 36, and Alexandra Harper, 28 — are married to twins whose aunt is the woman referred to.

It was Friday’s ruling that prompted them to gather up Lila, 16-month-old Cade and 10-month-old Annabel and head to San Francisco.

“This is a piece of history, a moment in time,” said Erin Harper, who works as a county child advocate investigating abuse. “We wanted our kids to know they were part of it.”

“To be in the place that started it all,” she added, referring to the city’s status as a pioneer in gay rights, “it gives me pride.”

“I’m not gay, but my dog is,” joked 37-year-old Emily McCullough of San Francisco, as Delilah Danger, donning red sunglasses and a rainbow feather boa, posed for photos in a crate on the back of her compact Honda 250 motorbike.

“I cried when I saw the White House” lighted up in rainbow colors, she said. “I can’t believe that our government did something so radically right.”

International travelers also got in on the action. Martin Egset-Linneke, 41, from Norway, guided his son and daughter, ages 11 and 8, through the crowd in their rainbow capes.

The family was planning on heading to Muir Woods on Sunday, but 11-year-old Tobias wanted to stay. When asked why, he pondered for a moment, then said in a high, clear voice: “For freedom. Plus, I think it was fun.”

The Pride Festival & Parade was long ago planned for this weekend, and although same-sex marriage was already legal in California, Friday’s court ruling declaring that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry brought added jubilation and gratitude.

Marchers in state Sen. Mark Leno’s parade contingent drew howls of approval with red signs declaring, “I Do.” And some members of PFLAG — formerly known as Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays — carried signs that said simply, “We won.”

Melissa and Rachel Stiner, 44 and 45 respectively, proudly displayed their license plate, MRSNMRS, before revving their motorcycle to join the Dykes on Bikes contingent, which traditionally leads the parade down Market Street.

“We didn’t realize it was going to come this soon,” said Melissa Stiner, saying her response has been “happiness, complete and utter awe.”

The couple described themselves as “very married” as they flashed their rings. They live in the Contra Costa County town of Pinole and work in the relatively conservative community of Blackhawk, near Danville.

“I feel a little more comfortable in society,” Stiner said of the ruling, noting that strangers approached them while they were brunching in Richmond on Saturday to congratulate them.

Former Mayor Gavin Newsom should “run for president,” said Rachel Stiner, a spin instructor. As San Francisco mayor in 2004, Newsom pushed the city to become the first municipality in the nation to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

“He’s forward-thinking,” she said. “He gave us the push we needed.”

In the years since, she said, Blackhawk has shown the couple “acceptance of who we are as a people” that is “overwhelming.”

Newsom got props from plenty of people here Sunday. “Thank You Gavin,” read one pink sign festooned with a heart and carried by a marcher in the procession.
Soldberg also said her appreciation ran deep. “I’m never leaving California,” she said.

As Lisa Cormier, 50, of Vallejo prepared her red Suzuki motorcycle for the parade, she reflected on what has been both “a particularly special week” and “a long time coming.”

Cormier and her wife, 55-year-old Violet Decker (her matching motorcycle is, yes, violet), first publicly declared their commitment in a domestic partnership ceremony in Nevada in 2005. Then, in 2008, after the state court legalized same-sex marriage and before Proposition 8 temporarily brought the marriages to a halt, they wed in Napa.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: People celebrate gay pride at the Chicago Pride Parade on Sunday, June 28, 2015. The 46th Annual Chicago Pride event is held just days after the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right for same-sex marriage. (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/TNS)