SAN FRANCISCO -- The crowd near the intersection of Castro and Market streets had swelled and ebbed throughout the day, hooting and hollering in the morning when the Supreme Court announced its historic rulings on same-sex marriage, then shrinking as many people headed off to work.
About 6 p.m., as pedestrians took over the street and hundreds turned to thousands, a DJ cued up the Village People's 1977 debut single, "San Francisco (You Got Me)."
"Freedom, freedom is in the air, yeah!"
The crowd leapt to its feet. American and rainbow flags filled the air. The celebration had begun -- and with San Francisco's Pride celebration slated for this weekend, hundreds of thousands of people will be celebrating like never before.
Stuart Milk, nephew of slain San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, told the crowd that he was thrilled to be addressing a crowd in the Castro, more than three decades after his uncle had done the same.
"To echo my uncle's famous words, I want to recruit you," Stuart Milk said. "You've gotta give them hope, and that's what we're doing here in San Francisco tonight."
"This is a breath of fresh air," said Larry Pascua, of San Francisco. "It is such a relief. Pride weekend has so much more meaning, and there is so much more to celebrate."
Mark Chambers and Cullen Holliman, together as a couple for 31 years, were one of the 18,000 couples married in 2008, when a judge's ruling allowed same-sex marriage for several months before the passage of Proposition 8.
They were as happy Wednesday as the day they were married.
"Today is wonderful," Chambers said. "The next step is equality across the board."
In Oakland, supporters painted a giant rainbow flag on the ground at Telegraph Avenue and 19th Street as hundreds more gathered to celebrate.
Brendalynn Goodall, president of the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club, came out with her partner of 21 years to celebrate. Goodall's partner is a federal employee, and now she can apply for long-term care insurance, she said.
"We're in a loving and committed relationship, and we wanted to celebrate with everyone else," Goodall said. "Now our LGBT brothers and sisters can get married and we're here to celebrate that."
Lea Arellano, an ordained minister from Oakland, said she had already presided over four same-sex marriage ceremonies Wednesday at the party in Oakland, setting couples up to file their marriage licenses as soon as the state reinstates same-sex marriage in about a month. She added that she herself may follow suit.
"I can get married now," said Arellano, 62. I have a sweetheart, and now I have the choice."
She's married couples for more than 30 years and called Wednesday a "joyous day" but noted more challenges ahead for the LGBTQ community. "We need to get this passed in the rest of the country and to make it nationwide and global," she said.
Morgan Henry, 31, one of the organizers of the Oakland event, said the East Bay had to be home to its own unique celebration.
"We love San Francisco, but we didn't want everybody to head over there and celebrate," Henry said. "We needed to have our own 'Hella Oaktown Pride' celebration.
"(The court's decisions) just felt like a really big deal, it felt like a big sigh of relief," he said. "I've just been thinking about all of the families and all of the couples and kids who just want to have the same rights as everybody else.
"We all want to be recognized the same, be protected by the federal government to properly raise our family and take care of our partners and be recognized as human beings who love and work and function in society like everybody else does."
Jayne Dean-McGilpin, 56, and her wife, Sue Dean-McGilpin, 53, of Oakland, have been together as a couple for 15 years and were also married in 2008.
"(There is) still a lot of work to be done," Sue Dean-McGilpin said Wednesday in Oakland. "(Same-sex marriage) needs to be recognized in all states. I feel that our marriage is threatened by the fact that there isn't equal justice throughout the United States."
In San Jose, a diverse and colorful group grew to more than 250, listening to shout-outs and cheers as well as lamentations of past injustices from politicians and gay couples taking the a microphone in front of City Hall.
All were drowned out momentarily by a passing fire engine that blasted its horn in approval.
Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Ken Yeager said he looks forward to the county resuming same-sex marriages.
"Every time I walk to my office, there's a window where you go to get married," he said. "I always thought there should be a sign there that said 'For straight people only.' Well, that's no longer the case. The marriage window is open for everyone."
San Jose small business owner Angella Tai kicked off the speakers, saying she never thought she would stand in front of an equality rally.
"I never thought I had equal rights," she said, after leading the crowd through a "get used to it" hue and cry.
"I was afraid to come out and be myself, be a lesbian," she said. "Today, I heard the decision and started to cry because now I have the opportunity to marry the love of my life."
Tai wrapped up the rally with a twist on an oft-chanted call and response.
"What did we win?" "Freedom!" "When did we win it?" "Today!"
Palmer Lamb, a San Francisco resident since 1991, has seen the ups and downs of the fight for gay rights.
"My window to be a trophy wife is closing, so I was excited to hear I have a little more time," he said with a laugh. "It is still sad that this is not everywhere, but it is great for California. I'm glad to see people did not give up on their activism."
Straight allies of the gay rights movement were also at the rallies. Lindsey Freitas, a San Jose mother, brought her daughters to San Francisco. She said she and her husband had always taught them that "people can love whoever they want.
"I want them to know that this fight has been going on long before they were born. My daughter woke up this morning and immediately asked if today's decision meant her two uncles could finally marry. I told her 'Yes,' and she was just so excited."
"This is not just a fight that is being fought by the LGBT community. I am married to a man, and I am here and want to fight just as much. This is everyone's fight."