Abortion ruling protested at SF Pride parade

  • by Ricardo De Melo Matos
  • Wednesday June 29, 2022
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People riding on the Oasis nightclub float made their feelings known about the Supreme Court's abortion decision in the June 26 San Francisco Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter
People riding on the Oasis nightclub float made their feelings known about the Supreme Court's abortion decision in the June 26 San Francisco Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Attendees and contingents at the June 26 San Francisco Pride parade had the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision reversing the right to an abortion on their minds as the in-person festivities returned for the first time since 2019.

About 700,000 people attended the 52nd Pride parade, according to the San Francisco Fire Department. All in all, the massive event went pretty smoothly, returning to Market Street for the first time since the COVID pandemic forced Pride to resort to virtual celebrations the last two years, but it wasn't all peaceful.

A small disturbance near the main stage late Sunday afternoon forced headliner Martha Wash to be whisked away from the stage, cutting her set short. There were also reports of numerous small fights, police reported. (See related story.)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi waved a rainbow gavel as she rode in the San Francisco Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) rode in the parade holding a rainbow gavel. Other political leaders who participated included state Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) and outgoing Congressmember Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo/San Francisco), who wore a rainbow dress.

The energy on the streets was unique. People of all races, classes, and colors celebrated diversity and praised equality. Some contingents urged people to vote in the upcoming midterm elections in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, overturning nearly 50 years of precedent established by Roe v. Wade, guaranteeing a person's right to an abortion. The 6-3 decision, issued June 24, stemmed from a challenge by the Jackson women's clinic to a new law in Mississippi banning abortion after 15 weeks, unless there is a medical emergency or severe fetal abnormality.

People expressed both disappointment and fear that LGBTQ rights could be diminished in the future, as a result of the court's decision. A concurring opinion in Dobbs, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, urged the court to "reconsider all of this court's substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell." Lawrence v. Texas struck down state bans against same-sex sexual relations; Obergefell v. Hodges struck state bans against marriage for same-sex couples; and Griswold v. Connecticut struck bans against couples using contraceptives. He stated that the court has "a duty to 'correct the error' established in those precedents...."

People lined Market Street for the first in-person San Francisco Pride parade since 2019. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland  

Carolyn Wysinger, board president of San Francisco Pride, warned in a press release that the ruling could threaten recent gains for the LGBTQ community.

"This ruling means that gender-affirming care could be in jeopardy and gay marriage could face an uncertain future," she said. "We cannot allow this ruling to set a precedent that will thrust us back into the dark ages or shove us back into the closet."

Maria Lourdes Gutierrez was at the Pride parade and had attended the Women's March the night the court decision was released. A Texan, Gutierrez said she came to San Francisco especially for the Pride parade. Women in Texas, especially women of color, are struggling because they can't legally have an abortion in most cases, she said.

"The number of irregular clinics are on the rise," said Gutierrez. "Sometimes those clinics are unsafe because they don't follow basic standards that, commonly, are supervised by a government department, like a health department, for example, making women exposed to unhealthy treatment."

The Texas law, known as SB 8, severely limits abortion and makes it illegal to obtain one after six weeks of pregnancy. The law also allows any citizen to file suit against anyone who violates the ban, or who helps someone else violate it, and promises the court will award such citizens a minimum of $10,000 per successful lawsuit. The law further notes that Texas "never repealed" its ban on abortion subsequent to the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which was just reversed.

Pridegoer Shana Bing, in the crowd having a good time with her friends, said that Pride gives her the opportunity to be someone who is unafraid of speaking out about herself. As part of the Latinx community, she said the increasing violence against minorities has put her on alert and, even with all the security and police around, she could not feel 100% safe.

A pre-parade controversy surrounding the presence of uniformed police officers marching in the parade, stemming from an incident in 2019, was settled only a few weeks before the parade. Under a compromise reached by SF Pride and SFPD, command staff marched in uniform while officers wore casual attire. The disagreement had prompted Mayor London Breed and gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey to state they would boycott the parade unless the matter was resolved. It was but, unfortunately for Breed, she contracted COVID and had to self-isolate, missing Pride anyway. Dorsey rode in her parade contingent.

The Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps contingent did their thing during the San Francisco Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

Celebrity grand marshals for Pride 52 included bisexual actor and comedian Sherry Cola of the television series "Good Trouble," and trans "Jeopardy!" champion Amy Schneider.

The community grand marshals were selected by the Pride membership, board, and the public earlier this year.

They were: Melanie DeMore, a Grammy-nominated singer/composer, choral conductor, music director, and vocal activist; Vinny Eng, who serves on the board of Openhouse, an organization focused on LGBTQIA+ seniors, and also co-chairs the policy committee of the Alice B. Toklas LGBTQ Democratic Club Board of Directors; Amber Gray, a group facilitator and public service aide for the City and County of San Francisco's Community Behavioral Health Services; and Socorro "Cori" Moreland, founder and CEO of Brotherhood510, a resource and education group for Black trans masculine people.

A contingent waving an LGBTQ cannabis flag marches in the San Francisco Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

Other community grand marshals were Mellanique "Black" Robicheaux, a 30-year veteran DJ who couldn't play in queer clubs because of racism so she paved her own way in the 1990s hip-hop scene by opening her own clubs and producing memorable parties like Tight, Rise, Dream EZ, Hella Gay, and Ships in the Night; and Andrea Horne, a Black trans woman who is this year's lifetime achievement grand marshal.

This year's honored organization was the African American Art & Culture Complex, a Black arts and cultural institution in the Fillmore. The arts and empowerment organization provides "space for Black creatives, healers, and activists all over the Bay Area to create art, host provocative conversations, and bring people together in joy, mourning, and political power." Last year queer African American Arts and Culture Complex co-executive directors and twin sisters Melonie and Melorra Green were community grand marshals.

Members of El/La Para TransLatinas joined the June 24 Trans March with their flags and banners. Photo: Rick Gerharter  

The Trans and Dyke marches also returned to the streets this year, as did the People's March. That more activist event traced the original route of the Pride parade on Polk Street and was organized by activist Alex U. Inn and drag artist Juanita MORE!

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