Watching the Celebrations

By Natalie Sehn Weber and Neil Protacio

San Vicente became more than just a parking street for bar hoppers on Wednesday, June 26 as the LGBT community and their allies descended upon West Hollywood to celebrate the historic Supreme Court rulings at a rally that very evening.

Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black couldn’t have said it any better: “Today, freedom and equality yet again ring in the great state of California and this time no one will ever, ever take it away from us again.” The crowd would erupt in cheers – cheers that echoed throughout the evening – while flags and banners colored the blue skies. It was a momentous occasion.

The Supreme Court granted over 1,000 federal benefits to gays and lesbians nationwide by striking down a section of the 17-year-old Defense of Marriage Act. SCOTUS also restored same-sex marriages in California, throwing the Proposition 8 case back to the Ninth Circuit District Court who ruled against the measure’s backers a year ago.

Speakers included Ted Olsen and David Boies, the lawyers who fought to take down Proposition 8 in California, as well as both plaintiffs, and city council members and community leaders.

“We are here because people were not prepared to simply give up and accept second-class status,” said David Boies. “And because of that today, in California, everyone is equal.”

Proposition 8 was a voter-approved ballot measure in 2008 that restricted the definition of marriage in California to man and woman. In 2009, Kristin Perry and Sandra Stiers were denied marriage licenses in Alameda. Their co-plaintiffs Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarillo were also denied a marriage license in Los Angeles. The couples sued their county clerks, the health department, and state officials, bringing forth a trial on Jan. 11, 2010. Judge Vaughn Walker ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on Aug. 4, 2010. The measure’s backers went on to appeal to the Ninth Circuit who batted the case back at them last fall, with a 2-1 vote that yet again was in favor of the plaintiffs. The case took its final leap of fate on the steps of the Supreme Court and in a 5-4 vote, the judges decided that the case shouldn’t have even made it there.


Natalie Sehn Weber describes the cheery Wednesday afternoon: “It. Was. So. Cool.”

I’m not entirely convinced I’ll ever find the words that accurately describe how happy people were in West Hollywood on Wednesday. What I can say is I’m betting good portions of those elated folks were a bit stunned, too.

After all, I can’t have been the only person who reminded myself before I fell asleep Tuesday night that there was a great possibility that Wednesday morning’s rulings might be terribly disappointing. It’s that very human thing many of us do: prepare ourselves for the worst, to avoid as best we can a broken heart.

As a result, it was all the more sweet when I woke to the news that the Supreme Court’s rulings were a HUGE victory for the LGBTQ community and its supporters.

People headed in droves to celebrate in West Hollywood. After all, where else does one go in Los Angeles to be surrounded by so many like-minded people on such a glorious day?

Thousands of people packed the city the day. The Abbey was rocking! Just imagine how many workers called in sick that morning, how many students ditched their classes… and how many phone calls to employers that morning had ended with something akin to: “Sorry, Boss, but my ass is going to West Hollywood.”

Yet Wednesday wasn’t the scene of drunken and sweaty people like the way WeHo’s Gay Pride weekends have come to be known. People were celebrating and partying, but there was something else in the air that tempered the mood.

Indeed, the Supreme Court had announced two key decisions that would clear stones from the path of significant movement in the fight for LGBTQ Equal Rights. Finally! There it was: The glimmer of a promising future, and it was an intoxicating view.


Yet, something maintained equilibrium in the day’s festivities and thus avoided the stereotypical drunken-Pride-Weekend-stumbling down Santa Monica Boulevard. Perhaps it was the sobering knowledge that SCOTUS’ rulings had toppled just two of the countless walls that will need to be knocked down in the years ahead. After all, only 13 of America’s 50 states allow same-sex marriages. It’s going to take A LOT more work before the day is done.

And, perhaps, others know in their hearts of hearts as well that there will never truly be a moment to rest. Prejudice doesn’t disappear in an afternoon. It never disappears. But, as they say, “It will get better.”

That evening, thousands cheered during the rally in front of West Hollywood Park.

Their shouts of thanks to the speakers who’d fought and won the Battle of Proposition 8 were so loud that they drowned out the thumping techno music coming from the Abbey, and the strip of gay-friendly bars, restaurants and clubs that line Santa Monica Boulevard. Thousands of arms waived gay pride and marriage equality flags and signs each time rally speakers paused to catch their breath. In those moments, one’s view of the speakers would disappear entirely as the sky above the crowd’s heads became a solid flurry of color.

Then the moment would pass, the clouds cleared way… and the stage would, once again, come into view.

For more on the events of Wednesday, June 26, 2013 as seen through the eyes of Weber and Protacio visit their Flickr Gallery:
 After Prop 8 & DOMA Ruling

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