Move over Dykes on Bikes. Here come the brides _ and grooms.
Given San Francisco's sizable role in initiating the lawsuits that led California's highest court to strike down the state's bans on same-sex marriage, the city's 38th annual gay pride festival and parade is likely to draw huge crowds this weekend, tourism officials say.
"It's really going to be a Pride like none other," said Joe D'Alessandro, president of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau. "I have never seen so many rainbow flags in this city, along Market Street, on shops, on homes. It's really a situation where the people are celebrating and the city is in a very festive mood."
With 259 marriage license appointments and 284 reservations for wedding ceremonies scheduled at the San Francisco county clerk's office, Friday was on pace to be the city's busiest day for weddings since gay marriage became legal earlier this month. There were 202 license appointments and 115 weddings performed on June 17, the first full day that gay and lesbian couples could get married in California.
Although City Hall will be closed over the weekend, organizers of the weekend's official pride festivities are putting up a wedding pavilion across the street where couples can get information about tying the knot or celebrate newly sanctioned unions.
Gay rights advocates also plan to use the occasion to build support for their campaign to defeat a ballot initiative that would overturn the state Supreme Court's decision by amending the California Constitution to again ban same-sex marriage.
The theme for Sunday's pride parade _ "United by Pride, Bound for Equality" _ was selected before the state's high court handed down its ruling on May 15. The celebrity grand marshals are Latin American entertainer Charo, singer Cyndi Lauper and Stuart Milk, the nephew of the slain San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, who was one of the nation's first openly gay elected officials.
The 2004 pride parade in San Francisco also had the air of a giant wedding reception. It was held four months after Mayor Gavin Newsom challenged the state's marriage laws by directing local government workers to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, but two months before the Supreme Court nullified the more than 4,000 unions certified during the city's experiment.
Tens of thousands from across the country typically flock to America's gay Mecca for the festival, a virtual holiday in San Francisco. The parade traditionally opens with a blocks-long contingent of "Dykes on Bikes" _ lesbians dressed in leather driving loud motorcycles.
While he said the parade will still celebrate "having a great time and living out loud," D'Alessandro expects the mood to be more traditional this year than in years past.
"It's not this subculture. It's mainstream," he said of the pro-marriage mood. "You can go to Macy's to pick out your china, you can go to Shreve's to pick out your rings, and you can go to the Four Seasons and pick out your reception room."
Gay pride events were also planned for New York, Chicago, Seattle, Houston, Honolulu and other cities.
Overseas, extremists throwing rocks, bottles and gasoline bombs attacked the first ever gay pride parade in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. Police in riot gear made about 60 arrests. No serious injuries were reported among the 150 or so marchers.
About 500 people marching in a gay pride parade in Brno, the second-largest city in the Czech Republic, were attacked by a group that threw eggs and shouted abusive slogans, said leading gay activist Jiri Hromada.
Revelers in Portugal carried a giant rainbow flag through the capital of Lisbon, thousands marched in Mexico City, and half a million danced through the streets of Paris to a soundtrack of disco mixes, choral music and accordion tunes.
In India, where homosexuality is illegal and taboo, gay activists were to hold demonstrations Sunday in the cities of New Delhi, Calcutta and Bangalore. About 3,000 gays marched through Jerusalem without incident on Thursday, protected by 2,000 police officers.
The parades commemorate the Stonewall uprising of 1969, a series of fights between gays and police in New York widely considered the beginning of the gay rights movement. The parades began the next year in 1970.
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