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San Diego LGBT community celebrates victory in full force

SAN DIEGO -- A standing-room-only crowd gathered in the auditorium of The San Diego LGBT Community Center on Wednesday night to celebrate the landmark Supreme Court rulings that advanced marriage equality.

The celebration took place following a rally and march organized by the SAME Alliance, which brought hundreds of people to the Hillcrest Pride Flag to mark the occasion.

Community members were welcomed into the festively decorated room, and were treated to tray-passed hors d'oeuvres, champagne and cake. The mood was very celebratory with lots of cheering, tears of joy and hugs.

The San Diego Gay Men's Chorus opened the official program portion of the event with three uplifting songs, including "We Shall Overcome."

Dr. Delores Jacobs, The Center's CEO, welcomed guests to the event, which she called a true "community celebration."

Assemblymember Toni Atkins, the Majority Leader, came on stage to roaring applause and said it was a "great day to be a Californian and a great day to be an American!"

Atkins noted that she and her wife, Jennifer LeSar, were lucky to be married during the brief window in 2008 when same-gender marriages were performed in California.

"Today the Supreme Court gave us that right back," Atkins said. "Let the weddings begin!"

Atkins thanked all of the community leaders, church groups, advocacy organizations and others who fought long and hard for marriage equality by working to change the hearts and minds of those who did not support same-sex marriage.

San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria also spoke, asking the crowd "How does it feel to be equal?"

Gloria noted that same-gender married couples will no longer have to use the "awkward" term "partner" and can say "husband" and "wife." Gloria said that this is a time to celebrate, and said that "all of you made this happen."

Kevin Keenan, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego-Imperial Counties, shared a creative legal analysis of the day's ruling.

"The Supreme Court created a 'no fly zone' for bigotry," Keenan said.

Keenan also said he liked the "guidance" the crowd received from the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus in their rendition of "We Shall Overcome." He then led the crowd together in singing "This Land Is Your Land."

People stuck around for some time after the close of the program enjoying each other's company, exchanging hugs and congratulations, taking photos, and sipping wine and eating cake.

Many people who attended the rally and the celebration at The Center trickled out into local bars and restaurants, all of which had unusually large crowds for a Wednesday night. Rich's Nightclub held a celebratory toast at midnight.

It is expected that people will continue to celebrate throughout the weekend, and that San Diego's LGBT Pride Celebration, scheduled for July 12-14, will be particularly festive, especially since the theme this year is "Freedom to Love & Marry."

Left photo: SDGLN staffers Ken Williams and Benny Cartwright (center) at the celebration with community activists Courtney Ware (left) and Rick Cervantes (right).