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Gay Pride Parades Celebrate Court Victory

June 29, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) _ Just days after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws against sodomy, gays took to the streets Sunday in Pride parades across the country to celebrated the historic victory.

``It’s a critically important step toward bringing full dignity and rights to gay people,″ said Ana Oliveira, executive director of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, marching in the New York parade along Fifth Avenue.

``For us, it creates a moment where we come together and we’re proud. It reminds all other human beings that we’re human beings too,″ she said.

The celebrations started Saturday with a few scattered events. In Florida marchers unfurled a 900-foot-long rainbow flag in St. Petersburg and carried a simple sign reading ``We are legal″ in Orlando.

The huge annual Pride parades followed on Sunday in cities including San Francisco, New York, Atlanta, Chicago and across the border in Toronto.

``Let’s hear it for gay pride. Let’s even hear it for the Supreme Court _ who ever thought we’d say that?!″ Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., told the New York crowd through a megaphone.

In recent years the events have sometimes been as much about partying as politics. But organizers this year say the Supreme Court ruling adds a special reason to celebrate.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas law banning sodomy and issued a sweeping opinion that seemed to stake out new ground for gay rights campaigns. The 6-3 decision apparently swept away laws in a dozen states that ban oral and anal sex for everyone, or for homosexuals in particular.

Laws against gay sex can lead to ``discrimination both in the public and the private spheres,″ wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy. Gays and lesbians, he said, are ``entitled to respect for their private lives.″

Both supporters and critics of the decision were quick to suggest it could lead to other legal advances for gays and lesbians _ including the right to gay marriage _ and organizers said a feeling of hope would carry over to the marches and celebrations this weekend.

In Toronto, a huge street parade Sunday included newly married homosexual couples who traveled to Toronto to get hitched legally. Earlier this month, an Ontario appeals court found the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman to be unconstitutional, and Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s government promised a new law legalizing same-sex marriage

Shawn Harrington, 27, of Tucson, Ariz., and his Canadian partner, Andy Cahyono, 25, exchanged vows in a civil ceremony at the City Hall marriage chapel, witnessed by two members of a gay rights group.

``We thought we would jump on the chance″ to marry in Canada, said Harrington, manager of the Student Union food services at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He said he didn’t expect conservative Arizona to consider same-sex marriage any time soon.

In San Francisco, Joey Cain, president of the board of directors of SF Pride, said the high court’s ruling is ``first and foremost in people’s minds.″

``The parade has always been about gay liberation,″ he said. ``There will be quite a sense of celebration.″

The gay community in San Francisco got a jump on the festivities Saturday, staging a huge commitment ceremony for gay couples downtown and unveiling a huge pink triangle in the hills above the city.

``We have a lot to celebrate at this year’s Pride,″ said Molly McKay, a spokeswoman for the group Marriage Equality California.

``It’s a coming of age,″ McKay said. ``This is a glorious and beautiful time to be queer.″

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