New and Venerable Institutions: Wedstock

Josie's veterans Hank Donat and Margaret Cho. [Ten years ago, we were standing on the stairs to the balcony at Josie's discussing which edition of Charlie's Angels trading cards was superior. (The first edition, with Farrah Fawcett, was the best, of course.) Today, the issue of wedded bliss is more important. - HD]

Wedstock: Comedian Margaret Cho appeared at a rally for gay marriage rights at Civic Center on May 17, 2004. Hundreds marched from Powell and Market Streets in solidarity with gay couples in Massachusetts who were being married with the state's blessing beginning that day. Though the rally focused on the action on the east coast, it was a decidedly San Francisco affair. One activist speaker at the Powell Street end of the march called for free healthcare and free housing for all. "Gay marriage was a dream in 1971," he reminded the crowd. No one could argue with optimism. Cho arrived in the nick of time after a delayed flight, joining the rally near the Main Library. Without a strong media organization by the rally's sponsor, reporters and photographers attached themselves to one photogenic couple, Jim Spinello and Bill Lenker, and Brother Richard Cardarelli. Frank Chu was never far from the scene. Cho, who married artist Al Ridenour in June, 2003, said that civil unions were no substitute for wedded bliss. As the comedian marched toward Joseph L. Alioto Performing Arts Piazza, the icon of the gay community resembled an Eva Peron for the 21st Century. Later, the crowd shouted, "Margaret Cho for president," as the San Francisco native left the stage. A few months after she married Ridenour, Cho told the New York Daily News, "It's not a traditional situation,'' adding, "It's not a committed marriage. We're just friends who share space. My parents don't understand it. They just send us Yahoo E-cards wishing us well.'' At Civic Center, the transsexual Kitty Castro asked Cho if she were openly lesbian. Cho said, "I'm openly everything." Cho's gay marriage web site is one of the best online resources for information on the struggle for gay marriage rights nationwide. The march was part of a day of coordinated demonstrations in several cities.

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