Thousands cheer Manhattan gay pride parade

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand along with City Council U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand along with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, waving, middle, and mayor Michael Bloomberg participate in the Heritage of Pride March along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. (June 24, 2012) Photo Credit: Nancy Borowick

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Thousands of jubilant revelers, many waving rainbow-striped flags, cheered the first anniversary of the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York State Sunday at the gay pride parade in Manhattan.

Celebrants in sequins and feathers danced atop floats to booming music, and marchers threw rainbow-colored confetti at the crowd as they followed a painted lavender line down Fifth Avenue.

Long Islanders watching the NYC Pride March were elated at what they said was progress made over the past year in advancing gay rights. "I'm very proud, very excited and very happy that finally we're being accepted," said Korissa Falco, 23, of Sayville.

Her group of friends included straight and gay individuals, all intent on celebrating gay rights. One had gotten married, taking advantage of the measure that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law a year ago Sunday. Another lauded President Barack Obama's personal endorsement of gay marriage last month.

Sarah Blandeburgo, 21, of Sayville, said the progress represented "the power of love."

Singer Cyndi Lauper, a grand marshal, and a number of elected officials -- including Cuomo, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn -- marched in the parade.

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Quinn and her partner, Kim Catullo, were married last month. "It's an amazing day," Quinn said of the parade. "It was the first time I was able to march with Kim as my wife instead of my partner."

Just two anti-gay protesters were seen along the parade route, and police officials said there were no arrests in connection with the festivities.

Tiffany Reed, 30, of Valley Stream, who serves in the Army and marched with a float that read, "Serving Out and Proud," said same-sex marriage is only the beginning. "We definitely seem to be moving faster towards more rights," she said.

Mark Engel, 18, of Holbrook, said he had older generations of activists to thank for his ability to celebrate being gay Sunday. "I came out when I was really young," he said.

Manhattan couple Gary Payne, 79, and Richard Dehn, 89, have been together for 55 years and represent the old guard Engel admires.

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"Back then," Payne said of the prospect of same-sex marriage in his youth, "I would have told you this would never happen."

With Igor Kossov

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