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New York gay parade celebrates pride, marriage law

27 june 2011, 18:38
Thousands of elated gays, lesbians and their friends hailed New York's approval of same-sex marriage with a triumphant gay pride parade Sunday, capping days of celebration over the landmark new law, AFP reports.

The parade, an annual tradition here celebrating diversity and tolerance, began heading south from Fifth Avenue towards Manhattan's Greenwich Village, to stream past the historic Stonewall Inn, the gay-friendly bar raided by police 42 years ago, sparking what has become the modern day US gay rights movement.

Marchers, backed by blaring dance music and rainbow-colored balloon displays, held up signs in tribute to state Governor Andrew Cuomo for spearheading the "Marriage Equality Act" and promptly signing it into law on Friday.

"Thank you, Governor Cuomo. Promise kept," read signs held up by some activists.

Cuomo himself marched at the head of the parade, waving a small rainbow flag alongside his celebrity chef girlfriend Sandra Lee, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Marchers, estimated to be over 300,000 local residents and visitors, as well as some 350 groups participating in the parade, according to organizers, were enjoying what was for some a culmination of a weekend of hard partying, since raucous celebrations exploded Friday night after the law was passed.

Gay rights supporters chanted and danced in the streets of New York City into the pre-dawn hours, after the landmark bill was passed following months of wrangling in the state between supporters and opponents, who objected largely religious grounds.

The passage made New York the sixth and largest US state where gay couples can legally wed, once the bill takes effect in 30 days.

"I'm happy! I'm happy about the bill, it's a wonderful day," Amanda Pears, 44, told AFP as she led the parade as part of the 'Dykes on Bikes" group, riding a motorcycle with a sidecar.

"It's a different day, I'm so proud," she said as her companion in the sidecar laughed and waved to the crowd.

"This is good news. Now we need it at the federal (US) level," New York resident Anthony Losanno, 32, told AFP earlier Sunday as the parade kicked off.

President Barack Obama, who rallied the city's gay community at a fundraiser a day before the state vote, was given credit by many for supporting the gay community despite not throwing his support behind the same-sex marriage effort.

"My belief is that when... in the second term, he's going to be able to open a way more freely that he can in his first term," said Paul Weidner, a 77-year-old theater director. "I think that will help Obama to be more open in this issue"

Gay pride marches were meanwhile taking place throughout Latin America on Sunday, including a huge 15,000-strong parade in Mexico City -- the first city in the region to legalize same-sex marriage and give adoption rights to those couples.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil glitter, costumes and multicolored boas took over the main avenue as the city celebrated its 15th Gay Pride parade as three million people took to the streeds to demand an end to homophobia. In May Brazil's Supreme Court recognized civil unions for same-sex couples and granted them the same marriage rights as heterosexual couples.

New York followed the path of Iowa, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont in approving gay marriage after a March poll found that 53 percent of Americans are in favor of allowing gay marriage.

Some states like California offer same-sex civil unions, but not marriage rights. That means the parties have some but not all legal rights married couples have.

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