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Last Night in the Castro

Caleb Pershan | June 27, 2013 | Story Reporters Notebook

Yesterday, after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and dismissed Prop. 8 in California, my roommate and I went to the Castro to celebrate—along with a few thousand of our closest friends. The 24 bus was so crowded we could hardly get on: It was the most people the driver had ever packed in, he told us. The bus stopped on Page Street—well short of its usual route, dropping off everyone headed to the Castro (which was everyone on the bus) to take a shuttle or walk the remainder of the route.

As Divisadero turned to Castro, we passed a few people holding signs, then dozens, then a man on stilts, and finally we joined the throng at Castro and Market. Inside police barriers, a DJ on a raised dais remixed Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence wandered the crowd in full habits. Rainbow flags waved as their flagholders danced. Couples kissed. Others cried.

I ran into my editor-in-chief with his child on his shoulders: I owed him a story of a wild, celebratory night in the Castro—and I was sure I would have one, as would many others.

Many of us in the crowd ignored the politicians who took the stage. Instead, we milled about and drank at the usual bars. It had been difficult, said one man at Twin Peaks, to wait so long for a decision on his marriage. Had everyone been on pins and needles, he asked, frantically checking Twitter on Muni that morning? Everyone laughed knowingly: We all had been.

We met a mutual friend, my roommate left, and then the friend and I talked about the rulings. We agreed that marriage was more than a symbol, even if it could seem merely that way to young men like us (I'm 23). We agreed that it moved us to see—as Mayor Lee put it in City Hall that morning—love triumph over ignorance. But, was it really an end to discrimination, we wondered? After all, the Supreme Court had undone parts of the Voting Rights Act earlier in the week. But what was coming next was a topic for tomorrow, we decided. This was “a party night,” as one man on Castro Street put it. A “Saturday night in the Castro on a Wednesday,” another said.

On the street, there was a man wearing a wedding cake hat and several people donning wedding veils. As it got darker, families left. Bars like Toad Hall and Badlands and Moby Dick had lines around the block. “Are you excited to celebrate?” I asked a group waiting in line: “No, this line is terrible,” they told me. "How much waiting do we have to do?" they asked sarcastically. Eventually they danced their way into the bar.

I met a man on the street dressed as a jester: the rulings didn’t matter, he said through his full facepaint: he “married souls.” Playing along, I asked if he was going to be performing same-sex soul marriages: “I have for years,” he said, "and souls don’t have a sex, really."

I met a group of lesbians smoking pot in front of a bar. “Tonight is the Stonewall of 2013,” one of them said, passing a joint around the circle. “Seventy-five years from now there will be pictures of us partying tonight.” One couple’s respective families had called to congratulate them on their marriage—even though the couple had already been married for years.

Inside the bars, people danced, sang, and yes, cruised for future spouses. An older couple slow-danced to fast music. “Hell yeah, I’m ready to get married,” said Jeff Cobb, a man in his 20s. “DOMA prevented my boyfriend from staying in this country. He’s a foreign national. He was going to have to leave two months from now. We’ve been together for six years, and now we’re going to get married and he’s going to get a Green Card.”

Next to him was a man who had tied himself to Cobb's waist with a belt. "Is this your boyfriend?," I asked Cobb. “Oh him?," he laughed. "No, this isn’t my future husband. This is the Castro!”

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