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They came to rejoice, in every shape, age and color. The occasion: the fatal blow struck to the Defense of Marriage Act by the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as the dousing of Proposition 8, which snatched away Californians’ right to marry whomever they choose in a ballot initiative narrowly passed in November 2008, adding a bitter aftertaste to President Barack Obama‘s historic win.
The mood of the crowd in West Hollywood on Wednesday evening was strikingly different to the one gathered five years earlier at the same intersection of Santa Monica and San Vincente Blvds., the crossroads of Los Angeles’ gay business district. Outrage and helplessness were replaced by relief and jubilation at a rally hosted jointly by the American Foundation for Equal Rights and Human Rights Campaign.
Billed as a “decision day community celebration,” the event kicked off at 5:30 p.m. under pristine blue skies, the monolithic Pacific Design Center serving as its backdrop. There, hundreds of revelers stood shoulder-to-shoulder savoring a moment nearly 50 years in the making, its beginnings traced to a 1967 police raid on Silver Lake’s Black Cat Tavern, inciting the country’s first gay rights demonstration.
Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black began his remarks by paying homage to Harvey Milk, the slain San Francisco city councilman whose life he dramatized in 2008’s Milk, earning him an Oscar.
“Harvey Bernard Milk, our dear hero, one of our father figures,” Black told the crowd, “he said, ‘We can no longer be satisfied with crumbs.’ It is time for this community to stop asking for crumbs and demand the real thing, ’cause they may find that they could actually get it, and we have.”
Joining Black on the stage was L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, who argued against Prop 8 before the Supreme Court, and the two couples who served as the plaintiffs in the case, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo.
The crowd waved red and blue flags bearing the HRC’s equality logo. Some hoisted handmade signs — “My gay agenda,” read one, followed by a checklist that included “do laundry” and “find a good husband.” Others donned rainbow capes, Man of Steel-style.
By 8 p.m., the speeches had been made and the crowd dispersed along Santa Monica Blvd., where popular West Hollywood watering holes like The Abbey and Mickey’s overflowed with good spirits and the sound of thumping dance beats. It was, as several speakers at the rally had mentioned, a night for celebration.
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