A Salute To Pride

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Crowds celebrating Pride in San Francisco’s Castro district.

Pride this year was special.

The annual celebration in San Francisco is one of the city’s most joyous, colorful, delightfully cringe inducing, and important events of the year. Every year thousands upon thousands of revelers descend on the city of Harvey Milk and countless other gay rights pioneers to celebrate their legacy.

But with the Supreme Court ruling last Friday that granted a constitutional right for same sex couples to wed, clearly this was going to be a Pride to remember.

For my part I attended Saturday’s festivities, picnicking at Dolores Park and then heading into the Castro to witness the bombastic Pink Party. Both the park and the streets of the Castro were jam packed with people. And sights there were a plenty – a man dressed in all pink spandex with Marge Simpson-height wig towering above his head; another man with a plume of pink balloons strutting his way down the street; confetti erupting from apartment dwellers looking down on the crowds – here was San Francisco at its most jubilant and thrilling.

Plus, another thing happened that day that for me made it all the more special – my friends were actually talking about politics! Of course the significance of this year’s Pride was lost to very few, and it was gratifying to watch my friends, none of whom being quite at my own junkie status, discuss the ruling, how they felt about it, and how incredible it was to be witnessing this watershed moment in American history.

The crowd at Dolores Park.

The crowd at Dolores Park.

Taking a look at the Supreme Court’s decision, my own opinion is that the justices without a doubt got it right. Citing the 14th amendment, which prevents the state from denying a citizen of life, liberty, or property without good cause, Justice Anthony Kennedy connected the concept of dignity – a word he used nine times in his written opinion – with liberty, saying that gay couples deserve to have the dignity, and thus the liberty, that comes with having the right to marry.

The arguments in opposition to the ruling centered around the belief this was an issue best left to the states to decide democratically. “This court is not a legislature,” argued Chief Justice John Roberts. Roberts also noted that for the majority of human existence marriage has been between a woman and a man. “Just who do we think we are?” he wrote.

But the fact of the matter is there is an urgent civil rights issue at play here, one that should not be left for states to gradually decide in their own sweet time. Married couples are granted numerous privileges that unwed couples are denied. Not only being unable to file joint taxes and be eligible for estate tax transfer, but also the right to visit one’s partner in the hospital. And to adopt a partner’s child in the case of the parent’s passing. These rights that married couples enjoy are essential for the stability of one’s life and have clear consequences on a person’s liberty, thus making it an imperative that the courts establish a clear constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry.

Even with the Supreme Court ruling, challenges will still be brought against the gay rights movement. Republican Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz has promised to make his opposition to same sex marriages a central issue in his campaign. The Texas attorney general has come out encouraging state clerks to deny marriage licenses to gay couples. And there are sure to be more as the dust from the ruling settles.

But on the streets of San Francisco this past weekend, the overwhelming sense was that a historic event had just occurred. The nation’s highest court had established a clear right for the nation’s same sex couples to marry, and this was reason to celebrate.
Congratulations to everyone who can now marry the one they cherish, and in the words of so many people dancing in the streets of the cool, grey city of love – Happy Pride.

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