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Love Is in the Air

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Party time in San Francisco in aftermath of Scotus marriage rulings.

by David-Elijah Nahmod

Thousands took to the streets to celebrate in San Francisco, where marriage equality began nearly a decade ago. Almost ten years after then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom opened the floodgates when he took the law into his own hands and began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the U.S. Supreme Court declared DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, unconstitutional. The court also declined to rule on Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved marriage ban. The ruling by a California court declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional would stand. Legal, same-sex marriages are expected to resume in California within thirty days.

For Rabbi Camille Angel, the lesbian spiritual leader of Congregation Shaar Zahav, San Francisco’s LGBT Temple, the SCOTUS victory was deeply personal. The Rabbi was wearing her prayer shawl as she joined the Castro Street celebration.

“Today is a day for blessing,” said Rabbi Angel, as she stopped to chat with OutSmart. “I wish my parents could be alive to see this and [those] who worked so hard for this day and died never imagining this day would happen. I’m very proud to be a part of the Jewish people today. 80 percent of Jewish voters voted for marriage equality. But we have a lot more work to do.”

Rabbi Angel’s sentiments were echoed by Patrick Santana, a gay man who stood silently on Castro Street as people danced all around him. He held up a sign that stated: “For all my fallen brothers who didn’t see this historic day, I remember you with love.” The other side of Santana’s sign listed lovers and friends of Santana’s who were lost to AIDS.

For the most part, the mood of the street party was jubilant. Two blocks of Castro Street—San Francisco’s historic, self-described “gayborhood”—were closed to traffic as music played and people danced.

There were a few speakers. Cleve Jones, a personal friend of the late gay leader Harvey Milk, called upon the revelers to offer a moment of silent prayer for former South African President Nelson Mandela, who now lies dying at age 94. The crowd applauded as Jones pointed out that South Africa is the only nation on earth that offers its LGBT citizens protections and equal status in its federal constitution.

Stuart Milk, nephew to Harvey Milk, attended the party. In 1978, the elder Milk, then a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was murdered along with Mayor George Moscone at San Francisco City Hall. Milk, the first openly gay man in U.S. history to hold a major elective office, was targeted by Dan White, a homophobic fellow supervisor. That story was recounted in Gus Van Sant’s Oscar-winning film Milk (2008).

“Right now people are celebrating in states like Florida and Texas, even though this ruling does not impact them,” Stuart Milk told OutSmart. “But this ruling gives them hope. You can now feel it and taste it. People now have hope.” In a famous speech given during the 1970s, Milk’s famous uncle stated, “You gotta give them hope.”

The revelers encompassed all age groups and many different lifestyles. In a lovely display of community and unity, gay men and lesbians embraced each other joyously. Senior citizens danced with twenty-somethings as both wept openly. Transgender people were present in abundance, as were same-sex couples with their children.

On rooftops and fire escapes up and down the street, people cheered and tossed confetti.

“We’ve only just begun,” said one observer.

David-Elijah Nahmod lives in San Francisco. His eclectic writing career includes LGBT publications, monster magazines, and the Times of Israel.

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