Huge crowd gathers for San Francisco's annual Pride Parade


SKY7 HD showed the throngs of people crowding the streets as the parade made its way down Market Street.

With so many of those court actions in favor of the gay community, LGBT Pride Parade and Festival organizers expected a record crowd. And by the looks of it, that seems to be what they got.

The San Francisco Pride Parade is touted as the biggest in the United States. Well over one million attended, according to organizers' estimates.

There are always celebrity grand marshals who lead the procession, and this year was no different.

"I was so honored anyway to be in the parade," reality show star Tabatha Coffey said. "And because of the historic events, it is something that will never be forgotten."

Following a week of big Supreme Court decisions, Proposition 8 plaintiffs Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo and Sandra Stier and Kristin Perry, are the biggest stars of the event.

"We're so happy for people who are lining up to get married now, and hope they can soon experience what we got to experience," Stier said.

Even the Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of Proposition 8 were honored, in San Francisco's own special way

A motorcade of around 200 motorcycles kicked off the parade, which made its way from Market and Beale streets to the Civic Center.

Following the motorcycles were contingents of costumed bicyclists from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and the AIDS Lifecycle.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom walked the route and shook hands with the people while holding his daughter, Montana, who was waving a rainbow flag.

"This is such a historical day," Larkspur resident Jan Jones said. "We aren't separate but equal."

Jones, 75, and her partner Judi Provance, 70, of Larkspur were married in San Francisco City Hall in 2008 before Proposition 8 was passed. They attributed the recent Supreme Court rulings to Newsom, who permitted the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples while he was mayor of San Francisco in 2004.

"Without Gavin Newsom's courage, we wouldn't be here," Jones said.

Other dignitaries in the parade included state Attorney General Kamala Harris, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and Treasurer Jose Cisneros.

Early Sunday morning Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy denied an appeal by Prop. 8 supporters. That means same-sex marriages in California will continue. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee says it's been a busy weekend at City Hall.

"We had over 327 extra marriage licenses issued between Friday and Saturday, and we're still open," he said. "And it's not costing us anything, everybody's volunteering they're so happy."

By late Sunday afternoon, there were many more new licenses issued.

Sally Abolitz, 53, of Pacifica was holding a sign that read "Engaged: 30 years, married 3 days!" Abolitz and her spouse Catherine Mehrling rushed to San Francisco City Hall to get married in front of their five children on Friday evening.

Mehrling described the U.S. Supreme Court rulings as "bittersweet" since a majority of other states have yet to legalize same-sex marriage.

San Francisco resident Sara Cohbra watched the parade with her husband and two young children who were waving rainbow flags.

"One of the reasons we live in the city is so everyone can celebrate who they are," she said.

Along the parade route many people were holding signs that read "Free Bradley Manning." Manning was a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst whose nomination as a Grand Marshal for this year's parade was revoked last month by the San Francisco Pride Board of Directors.

Couples marching with Marriage Equality USA clasped their partner's hands in the parade and some were holding signs that showed how many years they have been together.

This year's celebration held more significance than other years for Berkeley resident Jose Consuelo.

"The energy is very different. As a community we're celebrating why we're here. It's a beautiful thing," he said.

(Bay City News contributed to this report)

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