Pride weekend celebrations got an early start in San Francisco with a Castro District rally Wednesday evening after the U.S. Supreme Court rulings paved the way for same-sex marriage to resume.
The decisions about the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative banning same-sex marriage, came just days before this weekend's annual Pride festivities in the Castro District and throughout the city.
The theme of the 43rd annual pride celebration is "Embrace, Encourage, Empower" and entails two full days of festivals and a massive parade through downtown San Francisco Sunday.
The festival on Saturday and Sunday includes more than 20 stages throughout the Mid-Market area with musical acts, performances and countless dancing opportunities.
Musical groups Hedwig & the Angry Inch, Nina Sky, Gypsy Love and dozens of others will rock the main stage during the community celebration.
State Attorney General Kamala Harris, with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, will also grace the stage on Sunday.
The parade starts at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, winding down from Market and Beale streets to the Civic Center.
As part of the parade, several celebrities and activists will be honored as grand marshals, including TV show "Glee" star Alex Newell, "Project Runway" designer Mondo Guerra and Tabatha Coffey of Bravo's "Tabatha Takes Over" fame.
The night before the parade, the annual Pink Saturday party held in the Castro by the charitable group Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, will be an alcohol-free event with plenty of music and entertainment to keep the streets flowing.
The free block party shuts down several blocks of Castro Street starting at Market Street, beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Police have advised they will be monitoring the event closely, along with other celebrations in the Castro and elsewhere throughout the weekend.
Police said they are urging Pride participants to be cautious with strangers and to report suspicious situations.
A tradition heading off Pink Saturday is the "Dykes on Bikes" ride from Dolores Park to the party spot, as part of the Dyke March with members of the lesbian community celebrating on motorcycles and a massive rally through the streets.
Starting off the flurry of Pride events is the Trans March this evening.
Celebrating its tenth year, organizer Tracy Garza said, the theme "A Decade of Change" will focus on the transgender community's growth and strength.
Last year thousands joined the march, and Garza said organizers are expecting more people this year with the Supreme Court rulings promoting more trans and non-gender-conforming community support.
As part of the march, which starts with an afternoon brunch in Dolores Park and then heads to Turk and Taylor streets around 6 p.m., several trans activists will perform and speak, including Oakland-based writer and filmmaker Kortney Ryan Ziegler and San Francisco Youth Commissioner Mia Tu Mutch.
Garza said speakers will also honor Bradley Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking classified information to the online group WikiLeaks, who caused controversy when the SF Pride Committee initially nominated, then rescinded, him as a grand marshal for this year's event.
Manning is openly gay and remains in military custody.
Following the march there will be two after-parties, one at the bar El Rio in the Outer Mission and the other at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center on Market Street.
The 18th display of the Pink Triangle will go up on Twin Peaks on 7 a.m. Saturday morning before a 10:30 a.m. ceremony with city and Pride officials and other special guests.
The noticeably bright pink triangle, which project founder Patrick Carney described as "in your face," is meant to remind the community of those persecuted for their sexuality.
"It's about remembering where we've been," Carney said, "and understanding all the sacrifices that came before."
Carney said although the LGBT community is celebrating in California this week, other parts of the world are still killing and discriminating against gay people.
Once the 175 bright pink tarps and nearly 5,000 12-inch long steel stakes are in place, a ceremony with San Francisco Symphony Director Michael Tilson Thomas will begin, along with elected officials including state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.
State assemblymen Tom Ammiano and Phil Ting, San Francisco supervisors David Chiu, Scott Wiener, David Campos and Malia Cohen are also expected to attend the ceremony.
Several celebrity grand marshals will also make an appearance, Carney said.
Volunteers will also be needed to take down the triangle Sunday afternoon after the temporary hillside monument is on display throughout Pride weekend.
This year organizers are expecting larger crowds at the various festivities with marriage equality and gay rights making strides in California this week.
On Wednesday evening, before official pride celebrations began, a Decision Day rally was held in the Castro District, shutting down several blocks as the LGBT community and supporters celebrated the high court's decisions.
Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District executive director Andrea Aiello said the group has been preparing the Castro for an influx of visitors and revelers.
Merchants have been given a "heads up," Aiello said, and extra staff has been called in.
Aiello said she expects crowds to "stream into the Castro after the parade" but the effect of the Supreme Court rulings will be felt throughout.
"All of San Francisco is buzzing," she said.
She said planned street closures for Pink Saturday and police units prepared for heavy foot traffic during the weekend will help mitigate problems in the area.
She said extensive planning and preparation should make for a successful weekend.
"People are really excited," Aiello said.
After the excitement dims Sunday night, the community benefit district has a "clean team" ready to sweep up remnants of the celebratory weekend.
The clean team, which works with the city's Department of Public Works, Aiello said, was already deployed to clean up after Wednesday night's festivities.
As part of the long list of activities happening on Pride weekend, the GLBT History Museum is offering free admission Sunday.
The museum also offered free entry Wednesday after the decisions about Proposition 8 and DOMA were announced.
"We encourage the community to come in on certain special holidays," museum spokesman Gerard Koskovich said.
A wall of monitors visible from outside the museum, located at 4127 18th St., will livestream the parade starting at 10 a.m. alongside historical footage -- some never seen before -- from parades of past years.
Footage from the 1973 Pride parade, which then took place on Polk Street, will be screened, along with parade archives from throughout the 1980s and 1990s maintained by the GLBT Historical Society.
San Francisco Municipal Railway service will be impacted by the slew of events and street festivities starting today.
Muni officials are advising riders to plan ahead and expect rerouted buses and limited service throughout many parts of the system.
Motorists are advised to expect delays and crowded streets along Market Street, downtown and Civic Center areas and the Castro District.
Details about service changes and other transit plans are available at http://www.sfmta.com/calendar/san-francisco-pride.
More information about Pride events is available at www.sfpride.org.
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