San Francisco — Gay rights supporters crowded parade routes in major US cities for pride celebrations that were especially lively after a week that saw the Supreme Court issue two major decisions on gay marriage.
In San Francisco, the biggest applause went up for the two newlywed couples whose successful legal challenge of the state's gay marriage ban made it possible for Californians to wed.
The city's parade illustrated how support for same-sex marriage is becoming more mainstream. Companies such as Facebook were represented. Police officers marched while holding hands.
"You can feel the smiles," said Graham Linn, aged 42. "All around you there is a release. There is a vindication, and you can feel it."
The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the California ban and invalidated part of a federal law that denied spousal benefits to gay couples. On Sunday morning, Justice Anthony Kennedy denied a last-ditch request from the sponsors of California's ban to halt the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses in the most populous US state.
San Francisco City Hall remained open on Sunday so couples who wanted to marry could obtain their licenses. Every other clerk in California's 58 counties will be required to issue same-sex marriage licenses starting on Monday.
Time of firsts
The parade in New York City, where the first pride march was held 44 years ago, celebrated Edith Windsor, the 84-year-old widow who challenged the federal Defence of Marriage Act after she was forced to pay $363 053 on the estate of her late wife.
"If someone had told me 50 years ago that I would be the marshal of New York City gay pride parade in 2013 at the age of 84, I never would have believed it," Windsor said.
In Seattle, the two women who were the first same-sex couple to be granted a marriage license in Washington state after same-sex marriage became legal there last year helped raise a giant marriage equality sign on top of the city's iconic Space Needle.
In another first, the Seattle Mariners professional baseball team flew a rainbow flag — the symbol of gay pride, first unfurled during San Francisco's parade in 1978 — during their game on Sunday against the Chicago Cubs.
The Supreme Court wins motivated many first-time pride parade spectators. Michael Pence, aged 53, and John Moehnke, aged 46, a North Carolina couple who are engaged, attended Chicago's annual Pride Parade for the first time, saying they were thrilled about the rulings.
The couple planned to marry in New York in the fall but want to see gay marriage extended to other states including Illinois, where efforts to legalise gay marriage have stalled despite pressure from President Barack Obama.
"We have such a long way to go, but we're ready for the fight," Moehnke said.