Seth Wenig, Associated Press
NEW YORK — New York marked the anniversary of the state's same-sex marriage law with a gay pride march that exuded diversity, from grand marshal Cyndi Lauper to the mayor and the governor.
"New York is a place where you can do whatever you want to do," Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared before he joined the Manhattan parade at noon.
He said he had a message for the rest of America: "The government should get out of your personal life."
Hundreds of thousands of spectators crowded Fifth Avenue sidewalks a dozen deep, cheering and waving rainbow-colored flags for the annual festivities one year after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Marriage Equality Act into law.
The governor appeared Sunday with his girlfriend, Food Network chef Sandra Lee.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn went to the parade as a newlywed, married last month to longtime partner Kim Catullo.
"A year ago, I was walking with my fiancee," Quinn said. "Today, I'm marching with my wife, my father and the mayor."
Not far behind was a contingent of police officers.
A banner that stretched across Fifth Avenue from sidewalk to sidewalk bore the words Heritage of Pride, a non-profit organization that organizes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender events in New York to commemorate the 1969 riots at Manhattan's Stonewall Inn, which have come to symbolize the gay rights movement.
Marchers holding up the banner included Evette Simmons, a 55-year-old nurse practitioner from Brooklyn.
This year's parade was special because, as a result of the marriage equality law, she said, she and others "are acknowledged as part of a legalized family of love and respect, and this has a ripple effect across the country and the world."
The mayor and City Council speaker stood with their hands over their hearts for the national anthem before a roar of motorcycles signaled the start of the parade with the Sirens lesbian bikers. One woman rolled off holding a cardboard heart with the inscription, "Love is love."
Floating high above the avenue was a giant double arch of multicolored balloons.
Each year since 1970, the parade has had a different theme. This time, it was called "Share the Love." Organizers say they want other states to pass legislation that allows same-sex marriage. Six states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage.
This year marked another first for the movement, with a float carrying active members of the U.S. military who can now openly declare their sexuality while being allowed to serve.
"It's great to be proud of who we are," said Air Force 1st Lt. Josh Seefried, co-director of OutServe, a network of actively serving LGBT military personnel.
However, spectators and participants voiced frustrations over what has yet to be accomplished.
"There are still a lot of issues, like so many homeless gay youth and federal rights for the LGBT community," said 26-year-old Nathan Tabak, of Queens. "But it would be unrealistic to expect that anytime soon, given how conservative the Supreme Court is."
Kim Van Sprundel, a 21-year-old spectator, said her Long Island community of West Islip is "still very conservative, and when I say I'm gay, I get frowned upon, and my parents don't approve."
But on Sunday on Fifth Avenue, she said, "we can celebrate that being gay is OK."
Robert Ordonez, a 40-year-old artist from Spain living in New York, was decked out from head to toe, wearing bright orange boots, blue velvet swimming trunks, a pink T-shirt, a pink leather dog collar and blue feathers around his neck.
Despite the festive attire, he carried some somber advice, saying, "I want to tell gay kids, 'It gets better, so if you get bullied, you don't have to kill yourself.'"
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