Volume 76, Number 6 | June 28 - July 4 2006

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Dressed to wed: Many revelers at Sunday’s LGBT Pride Parade were hoping New York legalizes same-sex marriage soon.

Out and about! Gay pride marchers revel; pols talk marriage

By Paul Schindler

Villager photos by Jefferson Siegel

Some marchers protested against the Boy Scout ban against gays.

Sunday’s LGBT Pride Parade, marking the 37th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion of June 1969, survived largely unscathed from threatening dark clouds and thick humid air that unleashed only one heavy downpour, a half hour before the noon step-off.

The massive annual gathering, originally known as the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade, began at 52nd St. and Fifth Ave. and proceeded south to Ninth St., then west to Christopher, before concluding at Hudson St.

Led, as is customary, by a contingent of Dykes on Bikes, the parade contained so many contingents that its tail end did not cross the finish line until well past 6 p.m. Participants spanned the diversity of the city’s L.G.B.T. community—the nation’s largest—and beyond. Marchers were as young as the infants and small children from the Community Center Kids program, which serves families headed by gay and lesbian parents—and also included many who had experienced first-hand the remarkable changes in gay life over the past half century, such as those who joined with SAGE, Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders.

The city’s first openly-gay City Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, left, one of the parade’s grand marshals, with City Councilmember Rosie Mendez, a lesbian who represents the Lower East Side and East Village. The normally reserved Assemblymember Deborah Glick, New York’s first openly-gay state Legislator, right, danced down Christopher St. Sunday.

Healthcare service and treatment groups, from Chelsea-based Gay Men’s Health Crisis, to People of Color in Crisis in Brooklyn and the Bronx Lesbian & Gay Health Resource Consortium, and many more, fielded large contingents and were given places of honor toward the front of the parade.

Luna Ortiz, who teaches photography at the East Village’s Hetrick-Martin Institute for L.G.B.T. youth, was proud that he let his face be plastered all over town in the “HIV Stops with Me” ad campaign. “It’s puts a face on H.I.V. for youth,” he said.

Communities of faith were also well represented on Sunday. Metropolitan Community Church of New York, which holds weekly Christian services on West 36th St, turned out, and its pastor, Reverend Pat Bumgardner, when asked what her congregation had done to advance L.G.B.T. equality over the past year, responded, “I’m proud of what our church is doing in Nigeria and Jamaica,” adding that she is headed for Malaysia in August to help “underground gay and Christian groups that are struggling.”

West Village-based Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, which holds most of its services in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Chelsea but marks holidays in its sanctuary on Bethune St., joined the parade. The synagogue’s leader, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, hopes that a portion of those who marched will join her as she journeys to Jerusalem in August to observe World Pride.

A boisterous mix of brilliantly-clad drag queens and congregants wearing identical lavender T-shirts filled a float from the East Village Middle Collegiate Church that brought its longtime senior minister, Reverend Gordon Dragt, out of retirement, at least for the day.

Gay and lesbian police officers from GOAL, the Gay Officers Action League, marched again this year, as did L.G.B.T. firefighters riding an engine house truck down Fifth Ave. Several dozen members of Gay Male S/M Activists sported leather chaps, vests, and caps, nipple rings, and the occasional riding crop.

As is increasingly the case each year, local businesses and national corporations also joined in the festivities. Bars from across the city, including the latest addition to the Washington Heights night scene, No Parking, rolled out elaborate floats topped by muscled, scantily clad young men moving to all manner of rhythms. Larger commercial outfits—from Bank of America to Broadway’s Grey Gardens—couldn’t resist the chance to push their brands before hundreds of thousands of onlookers.

Richard Burns, who for two decades has helmed the L.G.B.T. Center, after having helped found Boston’s famed, but now defunct, Gay Community News collective, said, “I’m proud that our community keeps on fighting, building community… when there is so little community in this country. Queer people continue to care about one another and strive to share a vision where we are all sage and welcome and celebrated for who we are.”

Claiming a spot right behind the towering, rainbow balloon arches and the cycling Dykes were the parade’s grand marshals — lesbian City Council Speaker Christine Quinn of Chelsea and Gansevoort Market restaurateur, historic preservationist, and AIDS activist Florent Morellet — joined by New York political royalty, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

At 48th St. at Fifth Ave., where he jumped into the parade, Bloomberg opened his remarks to the press by saying, “Happy pride. It’s a nice day, another day for New York to show its diversity.” In response to a question about the pending gay marriage ruling from the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest, he reiterated comments he made to The Villager, and its sister publications Gay City News and Downtown Express, last December in an exclusive interview.

“If the courts rule that same sex marriages are permitted, we will start issuing marriage licenses immediately,” the mayor said. “If the courts rule that the state Constitution does not permit it, I’ve said I will go to Albany and lobby.”

Referring to a controversial proposal from his health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Frieden, that would end the long-standing requirement that New Yorkers give written consent prior to being test for H.I.V., Bloomberg said, of the failure of the Legislature to pass the authorizing legislation, “Sadly, Albany did not come though with a bill that would have made it a lot easier to test. People are getting infected all the time needlessly because a lot of people with H.I.V. do not know that they have it and they go about their lives.”

Clinton, in remarks to the press at 26th St. where she joined Bloomberg and Quinn, emphasized her willingness to stand up to Republican gay-baiting, including the recent attempt by Majority Leader Bill Frist to rally the Senate behind a constitutional amendment barring gay marriage—an effort that failed as it did in 2004 as well.

“This has been a very difficult period for the rights of all Americans, particularly given the politicization and mean-spirited approach taken by this administration and the Republican majority,” said Clinton, who nevertheless opposes same sex marriage. “Holding the line has been a primary objective.”

Clinton was quick to add that Democrats also need to focus on proactively advancing L.G.B.T. community goals, such as a federal employment nondiscrimination bill and a hate crimes measure. When asked if she would support a pro-gay marriage ruling from New York’s high court, however, Clinton would not go as far as the Republican mayor.

“Let’s see what happens,” was all she would say. Her Democratic colleague, Chuck Schumer, marching separately, signaled a different tone, saying, “I’d have to read it first. I’ve always said I’d be for whatever each state wants.”

At 11:30 a.m., during the day’s only significant shower, another leading New York politician, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, was on Sixth Ave. Uptown basking in the endorsement of the Empire State Pride Agenda, the state’s L.G.B.T. political lobbying organization, in his race for governor. Spitzer, who has been on record in support of gay marriage since 1998, when he was elected A.G., acknowledged that because of his position as the state’s chief law enforcement officer, his office “needed” to argue against the marriage lawsuits at the Court of Appeals. He pledged, however, to do everything possible to make [a state gay marriage statute] “a reality” if elected governor.

Spitzer would not speculate on the outcome of the Court of Appeals marriage deliberations, except to say that he “presume[d]” the decision would be handed down this week. Nor would he discuss any conversations he’s had with the legislative leadership in Albany regarding the prospects, if the court effort fails, for a gay marriage law, which has yet to get a vote even in the Democratic-controlled Assembly. David Paterson, the Senate minority leader and Spitzer’s running mate, also on hand for the Pride Agenda’s endorsement, however, asked whether the two candidates were ahead of the Democratic caucuses in both houses of the Legislature on the marriage issue, responded, “Absolutely.”

At the end of the afternoon, as marchers reached the West Village, many dropped in on the street fair clustered in the blocks below Christopher, or headed north to Pier 54, just below 14th St., for the 20th annual pride pier dance. Restaurants filled to the point of bursting and for blocks radiating out from Christopher St. and along the Hudson River Park, the West Village assumed the aura of a mecca for queer pilgrims. The formal festivities concluded with fireworks over the Hudson River just ahead of the pier dance’s conclusion at 11 p.m. Many revelers partied on into the night at numerous after-parties, which undoubtedly led to untold numbers of Pride Monday absentee calls to offices around town.

With reporting by Andy Humm and Duncan Osborne

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