On eve of Prop. 8 case, thousands celebrate gay pride in LA

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C.J. Dablo/KPCC

Activists in support of same-sex marriage march in the parade for L.A. Pride 2010 in West Hollywood, Calif. on Sunday, June 13, 2010.

WEST HOLLYWOOD - Thousands of gay-rights supporters today celebrated the 40th anniversary of the L.A. Pride Parade on Santa Monica Boulevard. The parade, which drew some 400,000 over three days, promotes the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. The event took place days before a federal judge in San Francisco will hear attorneys' closing arguments in a case that could decide whether gay and lesbian couples have a right to marry.

"I believe that it will be overturned in time and there will be gay marriage for gay and lesbian Americans," said Jessica Savano, a 30-year-old transgender from West Hollywood, who wore a "No on H8" sticker on her left cheek. "It just takes time. Look how far we've gotten as a community in just the past 10 years. We will get there."

Proposition 8 drew criticism from activists who say that the law passed by California voters in November 2008 discriminated against the gay community and threatened the future of same-sex marriage.

Jeffrey Mende, 47 and his partner Bobby Whipkey, 50 of West Hollywood, sat among the attendees in lawn chairs along the parade route. The fight over the new California law affects them, they said. They chose to register as domestic partners rather than get married before Proposition 8 passed.

Their domestic partnership offered them some legal rights, but they want a real wedding with family and friends witnessing their union.

"A lot of our friends got married. And we didn't. So now we feel second class," Whipkey said. "It's unequal and it's not fair. I want to marry him because he's my husband, you know?"

Parade goers grooved to disco and hip hop that blared from the floats that rolled down Santa Monica Boulevard.

One man painted in blue waved from the top of a fire engine. Another man smiled from a sedan covered in shiny disco ball glass. Others passed out Mardis Gras beads or gave people hugs.

Savano attended the event to support the thousands of couples who still hope to legally marry. She said she can legally marry since she has completed gender reassignment surgery.

"But when it affects my community, it affects me," she said. "I believe in equal rights for everyone."

Correction made 6/14/2010 9:50 a.m. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the effects of Proposition 8.

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