This weekend, while many of my fellow Bethany UMC members were attending Sunday worship and enjoying the beautiful day at our yearly Pride potluck in Noe Valley the 46th annual San Francisco Pride Parade was happening downtown. Just like every year, that’s where my wyfe and I spent the entire day! This year I celebrated experiencing my 18th SF Pride parade, and it was celebrated with a different tone than in years past.
Two years ago in 2014, just two days before our Pride celebration, the Defense of Marriage Act was finally overturned and LGBT marriage equality was assured in California. The crowd went wild that Pride Sunday. That year close to five million spectators showed up in the city to watch the festivities. As proud as we all were though, it was a bit of a cattle call. Last year, just in time for the 2015 San Francisco celebration, President Obama announced that the freedom to marry was now considered a constitutional right, and LGBT marriage became legal in all 50 states. Once again, the news had dropped so soon before, that the festivities gushed with excitement, relief, love and joy.
We were finally feeling like whole citizens.
This year, the scene was still full of over the top, raucous, giddy celebrations. The normal, one million plus crowd piled into downtown San Francisco ready to scream, shout and dance in celebration of simply being who we are, queer or straight, young or old. But this year’s celebration had a somber undertone. This year our celebration fell two weeks after the worst mass killing on US soil in our country’s modern history. The assault on Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL had taken the lives of 49 individuals, and injured another 53 on June 12th , 2016. Our community, especially those of us somewhat isolated in the bubble of San Francisco Queer culture, was somberly reminded that hate is real, and even though we may not face it full-front every day, that hate is dangerous and claims dozens of LGBTQ lives every year in isolated incidents.
On this last Sunday, we faced those fears by showing up to celebrate our amazing community. Marchers held signs in support of our brothers and sisters in Orlando, many bearing the faces and names of those lost in the shooting. We were all reminded that gun control is important at this juncture in our history.
Love wins, not guns.
Every year my wyfe and I look forward to some standby contingencies: Dykes on Bikes, the SFFD, SFPD, and not to be forgotten, the inspiring Our Families Coalition. But as devout Methodists, planted in the front row for five hours (since morning in wait of the parade) we saw another piece of ourselves represented in the parade. Glide Memorial UMC, as well as Wesley and Pine UMC churches showed up in full force. Rev. Cecil Williams led the Glide float with an air of confidence and ambition even in his retired age and declining health.
What was most exciting? We screamed and clapped for the appearance of Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, one of three openly gay clergy to be considered for Bishop of The United Methodist global church.
The prospect of her appointment has us openly excited, and her appearance in the parade did not go unnoticed! A week of sour weather broke for our weekend of celebration, and even our Catholic friends couldn’t help but exclaim, “see? God loves Gay Christmas too!!!”
Happy Pride month from San Francisco!