- The Washington Times - Monday, June 30, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets yesterday for Gay Pride parades, energized by the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down laws against sodomy and a decision by Canada to allow homosexual “marriage.”

In New York, Atlanta, Seattle, San Francisco and other cities, revelers marched, danced and carried banners congratulating the Supreme Court for its landmark decision as crowds waving rainbow flags lined the streets.

“There’s such a resonance, such a sense of movement,” said Marty Downs, a community organizer with the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center. “This year, it feels really political.”

In recent years, Gay Pride marches have sometimes been as much about partying as politics, but participants said this year’s celebrations were different because of Thursday’s ruling that struck down a Texas law banning sodomy.

The 6-3 decision apparently swept away laws in a dozen states that ban oral and anal sex for everyone, or for homosexuals in particular. Both supporters and critics of the decision were quick to suggest it could lead to other legal advances for homosexuals, and organizers said a feeling of hope would carry over to the marches and celebrations this weekend.

Organizers of the Atlanta Pride Festival, now in its 33rd year, said they expected a crowd of 300,000, the largest in the parade’s history. The ruling was cited as a factor in the big turnout.

“You couldn’t ask for a better reason to come out and celebrate,” said Philip Rafshoon, owner of Outwrite Bookstore in Atlanta’s traditionally homosexual Midtown neighborhood. “A lot of people think [homosexual sex is] immoral. And, unfortunately for them, it’s not illegal anymore.”

On June 10, an Ontario appeals court ruled as unconstitutional Canada’s definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman — paving the way for legalized homosexual unions there.

Even before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling, the committee that puts on San Francisco’s massive parade, one of the best-attended events in the state, had decided to infuse this year’s festivities with a more activist bent.

“We got a couple of breaks in the last few weeks, with Canada legalizing gay marriage and now the Supreme Court,” said Supervisor Tom Ammiano, one of two candidates vying to become the city’s first homosexual mayor this year. “It looks like Sandra Day O’Connor watching ‘Will & Grace’ really paid off.”

Speaking through a megaphone at the New York parade, Sen. Charles Schumer, New York Democrat, took note of how much the political landscape for homosexuals had changed with a few short days.

“Let’s hear it for gay pride,” Mr. Schumer shouted. “Let’s even hear it for the Supreme Court — who ever thought we’d say that.”

As they basked in the recent victory, many participants said they looked forward to a new era of equality and respect.

“We’re all together, one family,” said Armando Gonzalez, 21, of Issaquah, Wash., who took part in Seattle’s parade as a member of a youth choir made up of both homosexual and straight singers. “There are no barriers.”

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