Thousands of people celebrated the 44th annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride March in Manhattan Sunday, cheering, dancing and honoring last week's U.S. Supreme Court victories.
The court on Wednesday overturned a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, allowing married same-sex couples to receive federal health, tax, Social Security and other benefits that heterosexual couples receive. The court also left in place a lower court's decision that California's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
"After so many dark decades of living their lives hidden in the closet, gay and lesbian couples throughout this nation can now begin to participate fully as members of the American family," said attorney Roberta Kaplan, who represented New Yorker Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the DOMA case. "That, after all, is what pride is about."
Windsor, singer Harry Belafonte and Earl Fowlkes, president and chief executive of the Center for Black Equity, were this year's parade grand marshals.
"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," said Windsor, who faced a $363,000 federal estate tax bill after her wife, Thea Spyer, died in 2009. "What a wonderful way to survive Thea."
The march, organized by Heritage of Pride, included more than 300 marching groups and 65 floats carrying participants from countries including Mexico, Uganda and Russia, said director Mike Dunlap.
Judith Adessa, 73, formerly from Southold and now living in Manhattan, attended the parade with her spouse, Sandra Krac, 68. The couple, who married two years ago, wore matching purple shirts printed with "Thank you Edie" on the back.
Lisa Conway, 50, of East Meadow, was at the parade with her husband, teenage daughter and adult son.
"Our son is gay, so we're here to support him and everyone else," she said of her first time at the parade.
Several mayoral candidates joined the celebration.
Republicans Joseph Lhota, former chief of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, and George McDonald, founder of the Doe Fund, which assists the homeless, marched with the Log Cabin Republicans of New York City, which represents gay and lesbian conservatives. Both candidates said it was their first time marching in the parade.
Democratic candidates included New York City comptroller John Liu, New York City public advocate Bill de Blasio, former New York City comptroller William Thompson Jr., New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former Rep. Anthony Weiner.
Before the parade, Windsor endorsed Quinn, the only openly gay candidate.
"I am so happy to be here in what I think will go down as the happiest of all Pride days," Quinn said to applause. "Edie, you have changed the world. Your bravery has inspired people .?.?. There will only be more progress."
Weiner, Quinn's closest Democratic mayoral rival, called the celebration "a particularly joyous day."
He walked down Fifth Avenue carrying, at times, both the U.S. flag and rainbow flag in one hand and a bullhorn in the other.
"We learn all the time that when we -- when any of us -- get more rights, it doesn't diminish the rights of everyone else," Weiner said. "We're a better country today because the Supreme Court got that one right."
With Ivan Pereira