SAN FRANCISCO - In this national mecca of homosexual activism and in-your-face politics, the annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade took on a decidedly militant bent yesterday after last week's Supreme Court decision striking down states' anti-sodomy laws.
Not content with merely enjoying the same rights in the bedroom as heterosexual couples, parade organizers said a theme to the parade was achieving the right to marry - foreshadowing what some believe will be the next big showdown over gay rights.
Among the throngs that lined Market Street in the city's financial district were posters declaring "Hooray For Sodomy" and "We All Deserve the Freedom to Marry," while participants chanted "Gay Power!"
But like participants in parades in other large cities yesterday, including New York, Atlanta and Seattle, the San Francisco marchers took a moment simply to celebrate Thursday's landmark ruling, which voids anti-sodomy laws in 13 states, and could bring other sweeping changes to the way gays are treated in the public sphere.
"Today, all of us feel just a little more pride, a little more empowerment in being gay," said 31-year-old William McGregor, one of about 750,000 people who crowded San Francisco streets yesterday. "What the Supreme Court did ... is not enough, but it's a step in the right direction."
With the Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling, some experts predict that the national debate over gay marriages and domestic partnerships will intensify.
But on the streets of New York yesterday, 42-year-old Leslie Hathcock said it was just nice to bask in the celebratory atmosphere.
"It feels good to be out with everyone after the decision, and to know that I'm not alone, and that there are thousands and thousands and thousands of gay people in this country that have struggled for years," said Hathcock, who manages a restaurant in Arlington, Va. "I think that's what the parade is all about."
Thousands of marchers followed a purple line down Fifth Avenue in what spectators and participants agreed was a joyous celebration of the court ruling. Cheers rang out as the procession passed by, featuring motorcyclists, antique cars, dancers, bands, banners and arches of balloons.
"It's like the Fourth of July and the Gay Pride Parade all rolled into one," said the actress and gay-rights advocate Cherry Jones, who with playwright Terrence McNally, served as grand marshals of the Heritage of Pride Parade.
New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was preceded in the line of march by a Police Department band with a hip beat.
"I think the Supreme Court was right in their decision, and I'm sure this community really appreciated the Supreme Court making this decision," the mayor said.
John M. Glionna, John J. Goldman and Rennie Sloan are reporters for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. Times staff writer Richard Fausset contributed to this article.