About a million celebrants -- some wearing elaborately sequined or feathered costumes, many waving rainbow-print flags exuberantly -- turned out Sunday for the New York City gay pride march marking the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village.
The 1969 riots sparked the American gay rights movement, and the parade has since blossomed from a grassroots demonstration into a national affair.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo used Sunday to introduce an initiative to increase AIDS and HIV awareness. Before stepping off in the parade, he said the state's goal was to ensure HIV was no longer an epidemic by 2020.
New York State "in many ways was ground zero of the HIV and AIDS crisis when it started about 30 years ago," Cuomo said. "I think it's fitting that New York should then be the state that is the most aggressive in eradicating this disease and actually ending this disease."
The "Bending the Curve" program would attempt to identify people with HIV who are undiagnosed and link them to health care, get diagnosed people on anti-HIV therapy to keep them in good health and prevent further transmission, and provide access to pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PREP, to high-risk people to keep them HIV-negative.
Yesterday's gay pride parade was the third citywide since the state legalized same-sex marriage. Some spectators wore shirts that read, "Love is love." Many celebrated the milestone but said there is more to be done in the realms of workplace discrimination, permitting openly gay Boy Scouts troop leaders and beyond.
"We're not going to be united until everything is done," said Efrain Kilfoyle-Blocker, 28, of Lindenhurst, who attended with his husband of one year, Michael.
Marni Halasa, 48, of Chelsea, wearing a bride's veil and in-line skates, brandished a sign that read, "Everyone deserves the freedom to marry."
New York is among just 19 states to have legalized same-sex marriage, she pointed out. "We have a long way to go," she said. "The whole nation has to get on board."
Openly gay City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Queens) said he's been attending the parade for 41 years, since he was 18.
"Every time I come just reinvigorates me . . . and it's enough energy to last me the whole year," he said.