The 25th Huntington gay pride parade and PrideFest attracted about 15,000 people to an annual event that has grown bigger than organizers say they dreamed it would be after a 1991 federal court ruling gave them the right to hold the festival.
"We've come a long way from when we were afraid to step off the curb. This would never happen if we hadn't fought for our rights," said Steve Hanaghan, a parade co-founder. He said at the first parade in June 1991, SWAT teams waited on roofs and protesters lined the streets.
"I'm so afraid to say how far we've come because every time we take two steps forward, it's one step back," Hanaghan said.
Saturday's event featured floats, marchers from the LGBT community and 60 organizations and businesses parading down Main Street to Heckscher Park. They were joined by the New York Gay Officers Action League and several Long Island schools, churches and synagogues.
For the first time, AFL-CIO labor unions from Long Island and New York City participated.
Paradegoers waved rainbow flags and balloons and wore gay pride shirts with messages such as "No H8," referring to California's gay marriage ban that was struck down.
This year's Pridefest comes as the Supreme Court is set to issue its decision on same-sex marriage by the end of the month.
Same-sex marriage is legal in 37 states; in 11 states, cases hinge on the high court's ruling. Georgia and North Dakota have same-sex marriage bans still in place, according to freedomtomarry.org.
Paradegoer Lauryn Precht, 33, of Amityville said she hoped the Supreme Court rules for marriage equality.
"Hopefully it comes down in our favor, but people are going to do what they want to, regardless if it's legal or not," said Precht, who attended the celebration with her wife and their sons, ages 8 and 9.
The Pridefest ran from 1 to 6 p.m. and had performances from dance club singer Amber, "American Idol" finalist David Hernandez and "The Voice" finalist Anita Antoinette.
Laura Mastrosimone, 22, of Centereach, and Emily Cazer, 19, of Port Jefferson, said Pridefest helps raise awareness of LGBT issues and deters discrimination against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
"It's important for gay people to know they're not alone," Cazer said. "We came here to meet other people like us."