MANHATTAN — Scantily clad hips gyrated, pop songs blared and rainbow flags flew Sunday afternoon as NYC Pride March festivities took over a huge stretch of Manhattan on the first anniversary of the passage of the state's same-sex marriage law.
Participants braved temperatures in the mid-80s for this year's "Share the Love"-themed party, just one event in a weeklong celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender triumphs.
Queens residents Mary, 57, and Kim, 51 attended the parade for their 15th time — this time as a couple legally married for nearly one year, following the June 24, 2011 passage of the Marriage Equality Act.
"We feel so proud to be able to be part of this, especially this year," said Mary, who declined to provide her last name. "It's unbelievable."
The parade began at Fifth Avenue and East 38th Street, traveled down Fifth Avenue and headed west on West 8th Street before moving down Christopher Street toward the Hudson River, snarling traffic along the way.
Parade Grand Marshall Cyndi Lauper, who performed at a party at Pier 57 in Chelsea from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday, waved to the crowd from a cherry red convertible, and appeared choked up at times.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Congressman Jerrold Nadler and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, along with his Food Network star girlfriend Sandra Lee, also smiled and waved to the crowds, which parade organizers Heritage of Pride estimated would hit 1.5 million people.
Poughkeepsie, N.Y. resident Tim Hessert said he loved the parade because he felt free there showing affection to men.
"I love Pride because it's the only time I feel like I can walk down the street holding a man's hand in public and everyone will be like, 'You go, boy! You hold that man's hand!'" he said.
A 23-year-old dancer at the Midtown gay strip club Adonis said his gold Egyptian-themed thong, neckpiece and head dress were keeping him cool in the heat.
"It's actually comfortable, and it's great for such a warm day," he said.
A 75-year-old longtime New Yorker named Jerrold, who marched with the LGBT seniors' group Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, said he anticipated a day when sexual identity or gender preference was less noteworthy.
"Forget the labels and just be who you are," he said.
Edmonton, Alberta resident Kevin Hood said he and his partner came to New York for the parade because it's an unmatched experience.
"This is one of the biggest Prides in the world and there's no way we would miss it this time," he said.