By Paul Lomax, Tim Gorta and Tom Liddy
MANHATTAN - Victory is sweet.
Jubilant throngs of New Yorkers lined Fifth Avenue Sunday for the city's annual Gay Pride Parade - an event which took on special significance this year after an historic bill legalizing same-sex marriage was signed into law last week.
"This is such a transcendent experience for me after 38 years of activism," said Jay Kallio, 55, of Chelsea, a retired EMT and transgender man.
"I had to watch my partner die of diabetes because I could not put her on my insurance.
"This is a life and death issue and marriage equality is a breath of life for so many people."
Owen Hill, 22, of Washington Heights, was ecstatic as well at the passage of the landmark legislation Friday night in a close state Senate vote, making New York the sixth state to recognize the unions.
"It's a huge victory and New York finally caught up to Iowa, so it’s a big thing," he said.
On hand for the event was Mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who signed the historic same-sex marriage legislation.
"New York has sent a message to the nation," Cuomo said before the march, according to the Associated Press. "It is time for marriage equality."
Revelers held up signs saying "Thank you Governor Cuomo" along the parade route.
The legislation's passage was an emotional moment for Quinn, who is openly gay.
"I really can't really describe what this feels like, but it is one of the best feelings I have ever had in my life," she tweeted on June 24.
In the coming days, Mayor Bloomberg plans to unveil "NYC I Do," a campaign that is meant to build on the legislation by billing the city as a gay marriage destination, according to Bloomberg News.
The march followed Fifth Avenue from 36th Street down into the Village, where it ended at Christopher and Greenwich streets.
Along the way, the 6,000 marchers passed the historic Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street, the site of the Stonewall Riots in 1969 that started the gay civil rights movement.
The route was awash in rainbow flags and joyful groups singing and holding up signs such as "I like it so I can put a ring on it," celebrating a struggle for equality that stretches back decades.
However, protesters gathered along the way, including a group at 32nd Street where one person shouted "if you are gay, you will go to hell."
But that didn't dampen the spirits of those marching. One paradegoer shouted "Jesus loves me as much as he loves you" and others sang Lady Gaga songs.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan, an opponent of gay marriage, said Sunday that his position was not anti-gay, according to NY1.
"I'd say to the gay community, I love you very much," he said, according to the station. "If anything I ever said or did would lead you to believe that I have anything less than love and respect for you, I apologize, but that doesn't take away from my resolute disappointment to this particular measure."
This year's grand marshals were Dan Savage and Terry Miller of the "It Gets Better" project and the Rev. Pat Bumgardner, of the Metropolitan Community Church of New York.
"It's a wonderful day," Bumgardner told DNAinfo. "It's historical and what has happened in NYC sends an important message to our youth!"
Savage and Miller, a couple for 16 years, created a YouTube video to inspire courage in people facing harassment.
The third grand marshal was the Imperial Court of New York, which raises funds for groups that serve the LGBT community.
Hannah Thielmann, 20, who goes to Fordham University, came to celebrate with her girlfriend, Christine Careaga, both dressed in wedding garb.
"I'm really, really proud of New York," she said, according to the AP.
After the legislation passed the Senate and was signed into law Friday, her mother cried.
"Every mother wants her child to be happily married," Careaga said.