West Hollywood hugged, waved multicolor flags, snapped selfies and celebrated the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling Friday that marriage is a right for gay and lesbian couples.
Thousands turned out in West Hollywood Park for a rally in a city that has long been known as a pioneer for gay and lesbian rights. The Gay Men's Chorus performed as city and county leaders and activists addressed the crowd to mark the occasion.
"Since I was a young lawyer, I have carried a copy of the United States Constitution in my briefcase,'' Lorri Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center, told the crowd as she held the booklet-sized Constitution in her right hand. "Today, it finally includes us all."
Several speakers called for the audience to seize on the momentum to push for issues affecting others, including transgender people and undocumented immigrants.
"We welcome and join in celebrations nationwide, and applaud the Court and Justice (Anthony) Kennedy, in particular, for this ruling," said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "Ironically, gay marriage — and the values any sanctioned marriage encourages — may be one of the single most successful ways to promote safer sex," he added.
Los Angeles residents Ronnel Smith and Ben Coleman, came to the rally early to celebrate both the historic moment and Smith's birthday.
Coleman said that he had seen the decision in the morning but had not expected it. "We didn't think it would pass," he said. He said after he heard the news he walked to local bakery, where he bought rainbow-colored cupcakes.
Emily Barnes watched with her husband and 20-month-old son. She said the family drove an hour and a half from Ladera Heights to the rally.
"I just didn't want to sit and watch this on TV; I wanted to be here," she said. Barnes said her son may be too young to remember this day, but she wanted him to "grow up with this being normal," she said, looking out at the assortment of couples gathered at the park.
"We waited 40 years," said Mario Tenes, came from Compton with his partner Paul Capozzi. "It's been a long time coming. It's been a long struggle," Tenes said. "It's like Christmas to us."
Capozzi, 72, served in the Navy during the Vietnam war shared anecdotes of his experience of blatant discrimination toward gays when he was younger. They were unwelcome in restaurants and bars at the time he finished military service, and he knew people who were arrested for lewd behavior for "hugging in a parking lot."
He said he's attended many marches and some protests in the last four decades, and added that some of the younger people have "thanked us for paving the way" for Friday's decision.
Capozzi said he particularly enjoyed seeing gay families in the crowd. adding that he would have liked to have raised children — although maybe not teenagers, he joked.
"It's ok now, it's all ok now," he said.