By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com June 25 2012 7:39 AM ET
NY Governor Andrew Cuomo (center, left) and NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn (center, right) march in the New York City Gay Pride March.
Participants in the annual Pride March in New York City celebrated their catalyzing role in marriage equality progress across the country over the past year while recognizing the challenges that remain on the way to securing rights for all LGBT Americans.
An estimated 2 million spectators flooded the streets of Manhattan to watch the march, which has taken place every year since 1970. The event on Sunday was held exactly one year to the day the Marriage Equality Act passed the state legislature, making New York the largest state with a law allowing same-sex couples to marry. Since then, two others states have passed legislation, and President Barack Obama has announced his personal support for marriage equality.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg (center), NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn (center, left), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (center, right), and the Empire State Building (background.)
“Today, I hope people are feeling so gratified that the work that we saw get voted on last year has now been implemented and has even further ripples with the statement of President Obama,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who spoke before the march and drew a direct connection between developments in New York and the president’s evolution. A leading mayoral prospect for 2013, she married her partner in a high-profile ceremony last month.
“We still have work to do,” said Quinn, who marched with elected officials including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “We have to get GENDA (the Gender Expression Nondiscrimination Act) passed and we have to get rights for transgender people in New York. But we should be very grateful that our years of effort have led the president of the United States, for the first time ever, a sitting president, to say he supports marriage equality, and he will not defend the Defense of Marriage Act. That’s a remarkable thing.”
The theme of the march was “Share The Love,” a nod to the momentum generated in New York and an acknowledgement of the bracing agenda that remains. Four states will vote on marriage equality in referendums this November, and by this time next year, the Supreme Court could rule on the issue, with cases on DOMA and California’s Proposition 8 on track for consideration.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, who signed the Marriage Equality Act into law, marched with his girlfriend Sandra Lee and three teenage daughters, surrounded by same-sex couples that have married in the state. Gannett estimates that at least 8,100 licenses have been issued since the law took effect in July.
“Marriage equality meant so much to so many people, and you can still feel it resonating,” said Cuomo after the march. “It was a great accomplishment for the state of New York, and it was an accomplishment that resonated all across the nation.”
The Democratic governor, who received national attention for his effort to pass the bill in a Republican-controlled senate, indicated that he would continue to play an active role. Ballot initiatives are pending this November in Maryland, Washington, Maine, and Minnesota.
“I support marriage equality obviously all across the country and anything I can do to help, I will,” he said when asked his position on the state referendums. “Wherever there’s marriage equality, I will support it.”
The route took marchers down the wide expanse of Fifth Avenue in Midtown before turning into the narrower streets of the West Village. Layers of spectators roared outside the Stonewall Inn, site of the 1969 riots credited with sparking the modern LGBT civil rights movement.
Grand marshals included Cyndi Lauper (pictured above), who was accompanied by marchers from her True Colors Fund for homeless LGBT youths; Connie Kopelov and Phyllis Siegel, the first same-sex couple to be married in New York City; and Kiehl’s president Chris Salgrado. Hundreds of organizations represented issues including HIV/AIDS, LGBT seniors and, for the first time, members of the military serving openly since the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in September.
Teams of volunteers heavily promoted the president’s record in New York City and other locations, with The New York Times reporting that Pride events this season “could have been confused for Obama campaign rallies.” The campaign is seeking to capitalize on the contrast with the LGBT stances of presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who supports a federal constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality. One Democratic consultant said, “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel this year.”
Revelers squirt Senator Charles Schumer with a water gun during the march. The annual civil rights demonstration commemorates the Stonewall riots of 1969, which erupted after a police raid on a gay bar, the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street.
The Log Cabin Republicans of New York, which has not endorsed a candidate for president, marched to provide a counterbalance with famed Nixon operative Roger Stone, who is supporting Governor Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee. Johnson announced his support for marriage equality last year. GOProud, a group for gay conservatives, endorsed Romney in a decision that split the board.
“Anyone who knows Roger Stone knows that he is a man who says what he means and means what he says, and on Sunday he had a lot to say about the 'Obama Zombies' who were marching in support of a president who said marriage for gay Americans should be decided by the states,” said Gregory T. Angelo, chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans of New York, in an e-mailed statement. “More and more gay people are waking up to the reality that if we truly want equal rights for all, we need to support fair-minded Republicans."
Opposition appeared scarce during the march, with a small protest at 21st Street. Two men from the Jewish Political Action Committee, which protested the implementation of the law last year, displayed signs that warned same-sex marriages and civil unions would lead to humans marrying animals. White wedding veils adorned a large stuffed giraffe and dog (pictured above).
Polling indicates that a majority of New Yorkers approve of the marriage equality law, where a Quinnipiac University survey last month found that voters supported the issue by 54% to 37%, slightly ahead of national trends. Opponents continue to challenge the measure with calls for a referendum, which appears highly unlikely, and a lawsuit in state court over procedures used to expedite the passage of the bill in the legislature.
See more photos on the following pages.
Actor and activist George Takei rides in a place of honor.