Revelers in rainbow-colored clothes and accessories -- some who'd attended Pride events for decades, others celebrating for the first time -- filled the Long Beach streets Sunday, June 23, 2019, for what organizers said was the biggest Pride event ever on Long Island. Credit: Todd Maisel

Revelers in rainbow-colored clothes and accessories, some who'd attended Pride events for decades, others celebrating for the first time, filled the Long Beach streets Sunday for what organizers said was the biggest Pride event ever on Long Island.

A noon march, part of a weekend-long Pride celebration in the city, traveled down West Broadway under a cloudless sky as floats blasted songs like “It’s Raining Men” and “Bohemian Rhapsody."

“We couldn’t have asked for better weather,” said David Kilmnick, president and chief executive officer of the LGBT Network, which sponsors Long Island Pride activities. “All this rain this week made for the thousands of rainbows that we’re seeing flying across Long Beach.”

Kilmnick said Sunday's event, which he estimated drew a crowd of about 30,000, saw record registration for marchers with 107 businesses, hospitals, houses of worship and other organizations. A market fair and free concert headlined by singer Macy Gray followed the march.

Leading the march were members of the Sirens Women’s Motorcycle Club, who rode bikes festooned with rainbow tulle and tinsel. Club president KT Ballantine said the event is still in essence a political protest, noting continued violence against members of the LGBT community, particularly those identifying as transgender. The Washington D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign tracked 26 transgender deaths to fatal violence in 2018, according to its website.

“We’ve come far, but we’ve got a long way to go,” Ballantine said. “It’s still a march, it’s not a parade.”

The grand marshals included veterans of the Stonewall Riots who nearly 50 years ago fought back against police raids on Greenwich Village's Stonewall Inn. The protests are considered the catalyst for the modern LGBT acceptance movement.

“There were some brave folks who stood up and said, 'No more, we’re going to fight back,' ” Kilmnick said.

Five decades later, State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) walked the route Sunday, handing out Pride flags with his wife and child by his side. State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), the only openly LGBT member of the Senate, also served as a grand marshal.

LGBT teens Marielle Leiboff and Chloe Kim, both 18 and recent Ward Melville High School graduates, attended the festivities draped in rainbow beads and stickers. Kim flashed a peace sign for a photo.

Leiboff said she was about 15 when she came out as bisexual, adding that it was no big deal for her family or classmates.

“In our school," she said, "fortunately, no one cares."

Kilmnick stressed the importance for those still closeted to see people celebrating their LGBT identity.

Olimpia Kearney, 44, of Miami, Florida, who identifies as a lesbian, said she has traveled to Pride events nationwide since 1995 to show support for others.

Kearney recalled a man who opened his home to her and other LGBT youths after she came out, giving them a place of community.

“Back then, it was taboo,” she said. “He made his house a safe haven.”

Those who are LGBT weren’t the only ones offering solidarity.

Mario Osorio Jr. , 31, a military veteran living in Long Beach who identifies as straight, said he attended in support of friends in the LGBT community. He stood along the march route, waving a Pride flag.

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said. “That’s what I signed up for.”

With Megan Dollar

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