Crowds filled the streets of the Castro on Wednesday evening to celebrate the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage.
People waved rainbow flags, tossed confetti and embraced one another in a neighborhood that once witnessed the activism of openly gay politician Harvey Milk in the 1970s and countless rallies for LGBT rights.
“This street is sacred ground,” said District 8 Supervisor Scott Weiner.
Between speeches from activists and politicians, DJs blasted dance music ranging from Rihanna to Sister Sledge. Speakers included Assemblymen Mark Leno and Phil Ting, Senator Leland Yee, City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu.
Many of the speakers referred to a history of struggle for gay rights.
“Thank you Harvey Milk for all you did,” said District 9 Supervisor David Campos to the cheering crowd.
For the activists involved in fighting DOMA and Prop. 8, Wednesday’s rulings were a major win for the LGBT community. But with 37 states that still do not permit same-sex marriage, the struggle for equal rights is far from over.
“Today we can celebrate a milestone in our fight for equality and social justice,” said Cleve Jones, a longtime LGBT activist and protégé of Harvey Milk. “But the victory is incomplete until we reach our goal, which is nothing less than full equal protection under the law in all 50 states.”
Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, echoed Jones: “Now that […] Prop. 8 is gone, we can breathe easy. But our commitment has to be to our friends in Utah, and Arizona… We’re coming for you.”
For Campos, the LGBT community needs to be involved in other fights for social justice as well.
“We’re now working at immigration reform,” Campos said. “Queer people need to be included in that.”
Though nominally a political rally, the mood was celebratory. The Glide Memorial Ensemble led the crowd in an impromptu sing-along of “Going to the Chapel.” Spontaneous dance circles broke out up and down Castro Street, and drag and musical performances took place on a stage at 19th Street.
A historic political moment for an entire state and nation, the night also marked hugely personal moments for many.
Surrounded by a circle of friends holding candles, stepping over rose petals sprinkled on the pavement, Albany resident Madhuri Anji proposed to her longtime girlfriend Priti Naraya. For them, June 26, 2013, will not only be the date of a historic civil rights milestone, it will also mark the beginning of their life together as a married couple.