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Pride parade celebrates passage of gay marriage

NEW YORK – The floats were there, the music and dancing, too – all the usual staples of one of the world’s oldest and largest gay pride parades. But this year, something new joined the spectacle on the streets of New York City: proposals and wedding plans.

New York’s parade turned into a carnival-like celebration of same-sex marriage Sunday as hundreds of thousands of revelers rejoiced at the state’s new law giving gay couples the same marital rights as everyone else.

“We’ve been waiting to get married in Central Park for years, and now we got here just in time for history to be made,” said Bryce Croft of Kettering, Ohio, who attended the festivities with her partner, Stephanie Croft.

The two women are not yet legally married although they share the same name. They are now in the process of moving to New York and getting married. They were in a Manhattan restaurant late Friday when they learned that the bill had passed.

“We cried over dinner, right into the mozzarella sticks,” Stephanie Croft said, adding that they had already selected a spot in Central Park – the boulder she had marked with Bryce’s name two years ago. After the two get settled, Bryce planned to seek a sex-change operation to become a man.

The star of Sunday’s show was undoubtedly New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who fought to get the bill over its final hurdle in the GOP-led state Senate. The law makes New York the sixth state to extend full marriage rights to gay couples and doubles the number of gay people nationwide who are eligible to marry.

“Thank you, Governor Cuomo” and “Promise kept” read signs lining both sides of Fifth Avenue. Throngs of cheering supporters all but mobbed Cuomo as he led off the parade just after noon.

“New York has sent a message to the nation,” the governor said before the march. “It is time for marriage equality.”

He called his state “a beacon,” adding, “If New York can do it, it’s all right for everyone else in the country to do it.”

Same-sex marriage licenses are also granted by Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, plus Washington, D.C., and the Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon.

As he joined the procession, John Haracopos wore a T-shirt that declared, “Some dudes marry other dudes. Get over it.” He and his partner regard the new law as a legal rubber-stamping of what they did years ago.

“We got married in the oldest church in Paris. And it was just us and God,” said Haracopos, a 46-year-old hair stylist. Still, the pair plans to hold another ceremony in New York to ensure their relationship is fully recognized by the law.

His partner, Peter Marinos, a 59-year-old Broadway actor, wore a T-shirt of his own that said, “Marriage is so gay.”

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly marched at the head of a group of gay NYPD officers, right behind the official police band. At the end of the parade, a female officer proposed publicly to her fiance, also an officer, who accepted. They quickly vanished into the crowd.

All along the parade route, freedom of expression seemed to know no bounds. In Greenwich Village, a uniformed officer stood quietly next to a woman who had unbuttoned her blouse and cheered the parade topless.

“This year’s gay parade is different – it’s electric!” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s longtime companion, Diana Taylor. “You can really feel it, it’s so exciting.”

Parade organizers said a half-million people participated.

State Sen. Tom Duane, a Manhattan Democrat who is gay, said he and his partner had not decided when they would get married, “but now we get to decide, and it couldn’t be better than that.”