SAN FRANCISCO — While this city is known as the epicenter of the gay rights movement, the Castro has been its hypocenter — the origin of the explosion. And Tuesday night was no exception.
As results rolled in for Proposition 8, which would amend the California constitution to prevent same-sex couples from marrying, part of Castro Street was transformed into an election dance party, complete with thumping music, colored lights and thousands of energized voters.
But it was unclear what, in the end, they would be celebrating. The race was tight. With a little more than a third of precincts reporting, Proposition 8 was passing.
"This neighborhood is going to riot or party," said Jason Kauffman, a 37-year-old medical student and San Francisco resident.
Kauffman huddled with a couple dozen revelers outside Harvey's in the heart of the Castro to celebrate Barrack Obama's victory. Fueled by a pervasive appreciation for the presidential election's outcome, chants shifted from "Go Bama!" to "No on 8!"
After Obama's speech, which elicited a brief respite from the honking, whistling and screaming, police shut down traffic on the block, and the jubilant group swelled to a crowd of thousands.
Luke Bellandi, 29, a software engineer from San Francisco, said he hoped Proposition 8 would be struck down, partly because San Francisco tends to lead trends throughout the country.
"This will be a bell weather for other states," he said, anxiously awaiting results on Castro and 18th streets.
The official No on 8 election party was held at the Westin St. Francis on Union Square, where San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, a longtime proponent of same-sex marriage, was in attendance.
In Danville, Mayor Candace Andersen, the only Bay Area city official to endorse Prop. 8, was pleased with the results so far.
"I'm not surprised," she said. "I'm delighted but not surprised."
Andersen said she believed in domestic partnerships but not same-sex marriage.
In Oakland, Dick Hague, 77, sat with a friend watching election returns in the residents' lounge at Barbary Lane, an assisted living apartment building for LGBT seniors near Lake Merritt. Outside, there was cheering in the streets as Obama became the president-elect of the United States of America.
It was a bittersweet moment of sorts for Hague, whose elation for Obama's win was tempered by concern over Proposition 8.
"My partner, Otto Bremerman, died a year ago. If he were still alive, we would be married today," Hague said, noting he and Bremerman had been together for 48 years. "Regardless of what the proponents of Proposition 8 say, it's really a civil rights issue. There's no doubt in my mind about that."
"But even if we lose on Proposition 8, you have to recognize that the direction of history is going toward greater civil rights for people, greater equality," he added. "Losing on Prop. 8 would be a setback, but it's not going to change the trend."
When the upstate New York native came to the Bay Area in the mid-1950s after fighting in Korea, "you could not be out gay and keep your job," Hague said. "In fact you couldn't even be 'obvious,' as they used to say. So we've come a long way.
"Just consider what would've happened if you'd suggested back then that an African-American would become president. "You know what kind of answer you would've gotten: 'Never.' "
Staff writer Josh Richman contributed to this report.