SAN FRANCISCO — The 44th Annual San Francisco Gay Pride Parade attracted more than 100,000 spectators and participants under unseasonably warm and sunny skies Sunday.
The hundreds of motorcyclists of the lesbian group Dykes on Bikes took their traditional spot at the head of the parade and loudly kicked off the festivities with a combined roar. Corporate support was also strong with thousands of employees representing large companies marching through San Francisco’s downtown to city hall. Apple Inc. had one of the largest corporate presences with an estimated 4,000 employees and family clad in white T-shirts with the Apple logo and the word “Pride” emblazoned on the front.
Search giant Google had a World Cup-themed float and other companies such as Kaiser Permanente, Facebook and Whole Foods had large contingents.
Representatives from a variety of religious organizations, such as the Church Ladies for Gay Rights were also on hand.
“Many religions use the bible to try to beat people into submission,” said Michelle Buggy, who was dressed in 19th century clothing along with four other women from a Sonoma church. “We want to show the love that’s in the bible.”
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and assorted state and local politicians rolled along San Francisco’s Market Street along with gay San Francisco Police Department officers holding hands with their significant others as their children skipped ahead.
Several elementary schools, summer camps and other groups representing families and children were part of the parade along with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Choir, who belted out tunes along the way like “New Beginning.” Empty cans of glitter hair spray, liquor bottles and plastic beads littered the route which was thronged on both sides with cheering spectators.
U.S. Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning was named an “honorary grand marshal” for the parade a year after organizers bestowed and then rescinded the same title after fielding complaints. Manning is serving a 35-year sentence in a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas after being convicted of sending classified documents to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. She joined the Army as a man named Bradley, but changed her name to Chelsea after being diagnosed with gender dysphoria, the sense of being a woman in a man’s body.
Manning’s supporters Sunday defended the decision to name her a grand marshal.
“She’s a hero, she’s a whistleblower who exposed wrongdoing,” said Jeff Paterson, founder of the Pvt. Manning Support Network. “She’s the only openly transgender person active in the military.”
Spectators and visitors have been flocking to the city for a week, crowding San Francisco’s bars, restaurants and other public gathering places. The San Francisco Police Department opened two special command centers in the city and reported 65 public intoxication arrests along with six felony arrests Saturday night.
Nonetheless, for some veterans of the parade, the annual event has lost some of its edge as it gains mainstream acceptance.
“There’s less partying,” said Larry Pettit, who said he attended the first parade. “There’s less sex. Everyone’s interested in politics and no one is having sex.”