NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Throngs of marchers hoisting signs and rainbow flags made their way down Fifth Avenue, West 8th Street and Christopher Street Sunday for New York City’s Gay Pride March.
The parade was held Sunday afternoon with hundreds of bikers, whose engines roared to kick off the celebration. An estimated 2 million people were in attendance, CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu reported.
PHOTOS: NEW YORK CITY PRIDE MARCH
The 84-year-old New York woman at the center of the U.S. Supreme Court decision granting gay couples federal marriage benefits is a grand marshal of the city’s gay pride march.
Edith Windsor is among those leading the march down Fifth Avenue.
“If someone had told me 50 years ago that I would be the marshal of New York City Gay Pride Parade in 2013, at the age of 84, I never would have believed it,” Windsor said.
It has been 44 years since the city held its first pride march. But it’s only days since the Supreme Court used Windsor’s lawsuit to strike down the provision of an act that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman.
“Everything is different, everybody I hoped to make a difference for has a difference made. It’s a thrilling experience,” Windsor told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck as she marched along the parade route. “I don’t know how to describe it. Everything is different. Thrilling experience for this old lady.”
Openly gay City Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn marched along with Windsor.
“I am so thrilled at what I think will go down in the books as the happiest of all pride days with Edie Windsor,” Quinn said to cheers.
Onlookers carried rainbow flags and signs reading “We Finally Made It,” Schuck reported.
Also serving as this year’s grand marshal is musician and activist Harry Belafonte.
The third grand marshal is Earl Fowlkes, head of the Center for Black Equity, which works in the African-American lesbian, gay and transgender community.
The parade stepped off at noon and this year’s theme was titled “Rain to Rainbows.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other political leaders marched in the parade. Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner also courted support in the crowd speaking to spectators through a bullhorn, and Public Advocate and candidate Bill de Blasio also marched.
Cities across the nation on Sunday held what were expected to be especially well-attended and exuberant gay pride parades following the U.S. Supreme Court decisions restoring same-sex marriages to California and granting gay couples the federal benefits of marriage they were previously denied.
Paradegoers said the Supreme Court decisions mark a turning point in gay rights history.
“It’s a new day,” said Phoenix Kawamoto. “It’s a new day, and that’s a great thing to be a part of.”
The parade in New York City, where the first pride march was held 44 years ago to mark the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots that kicked off the modern gay rights movement, also served as a sort of victory lap for Windsor, who was forced to pay $363,053 on the estate of her late wife. Windsor was picked as a grand marshal for the New York parade months ago, before the Supreme Court used her lawsuit to strike down the provision of the act that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman.
“We’re very lucky, sometimes I like to think that when the decisions are made, they keep us in mind,” joked NYC Pride media director Tish Flynn.
The NYPD posted patrols in uniform and plain clothes to provide security at the parade at other events across the city planned for Sunday.
Pride Events Around The Country
The gay pride celebrations held Sunday in New York, as well as San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Seattle and St. Louis are annual, and in most cases decades-old events whose tones and themes have mirrored the gay rights movement’s greatest victories and defeats. This year’s parades, coming on the heels of the high court’s historic decisions, was no exception.
In San Francisco, the four plaintiffs in the case that led to the end of California’s gay marriage ban rode down Market Street in a contingent organized by the city attorney. Newlyweds Kris Perry and Sandy Stier of Berkeley, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo of Burbank, were able to marry Friday after a federal appeals court lifted a hold it had put on same-sex marriages while the couples’ lawsuit challenging the ban worked its way toward and then through the Supreme Court. City officials decided to keep the clerk’s office open throughout the weekend so couples who were in town for the celebration could get married.
On Saturday, defeated backers of the state’s gay marriage ban made a last-ditch effort to halt the ceremonies. Lawyers for the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom filed an emergency petition to the high court asking for a halt to the weddings on the grounds that the decision was not yet legally final. The filing came as dozens of couples filled City Hall in San Francisco to obtain marriage licenses.
In Chicago, the parade down Halsted Street, Broadway and Diversey Parkway in the city’s Boystown and East Lakeview districts was expected to top last year’s record attendance of 850,000 people in the wake of the DOMA decision, WBBM Newsradio reported. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn were among the participants, and retired NHL player Wade Davis served as grand marshal.
Illinois does not recognize same-sex marriage, but the Illinois State Senate has passed legislation that would allow for it. The state House elected not to vote on the issue in the session that concluded at the end of May.
In Seattle, organizers of the city’s annual Gay Pride parade planned on a larger gathering because Washington voters approved same-sex marriage last November. Voters upheld a law that the Legislature passed earlier in 2012. Since the measure took effect in December, more than 2,400 gay and lesbian couples have gotten married in the state.
Adam McRoberts, spokesman for Seattle Out & Proud, said it is expected that Sunday’s parade will draw record crowds. Tens of thousands of people typically line the route through Seattle’s Downtown and Belltown neighborhoods. McRoberts said the parade would have nearly 200 contingents participating.
In St. Petersburg, Fla., where Florida’s largest gay pride event took place on Saturday, officials also expected a record turnout. It normally draws between 80,000-100,000 people, but Eric Skains, executive director of the St. Pete Pride Parade, said about 125,000 participants were expected, largely due to the Supreme Court ruling.
Although Florida is one of a few dozen states that does not recognize same-sex marriage, Skains said now is the time for the local LGBT community to work to change the laws locally and that the defeat of the Defense of Marriage Act “is an opportunity for us to be truly equal under the law.”
This was the 11th year that parade was held in St. Petersburg. The mayor of Tampa, Bob Buckhorn, became the highest-ranking Florida official ever to participate when he walked the parade route on Saturday.
Lady Gaga kicked off the weekend of celebrations with an appearance and performance at the pride rally in TriBeCa. And Gov. Cuomo also launched the “I Love NY LGBT” tourism website.
Cuomo said the website will help lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travelers plan their vacations by suggesting must-see destinations.
The website will offer lists of LGBT events and resources throughout the state
New York is also promoting itself as a same-sex wedding destination since the state legalized gay marriage in 2011.
The new tourism campaign will be represented by the familiar “I Love NY” logo with a rainbow-colored heart.
You May Also Be Interested In These Stories
[display-posts category=”news” wrapper=”ul” posts_per_page=”4″]
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)