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Euphoria In The Streets: New York City's Pride Festival Celebrates Marriage Equality

ERIC WESTERVELT, HOST:

There are gay pride parades today in New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago. In New York, it's estimated some 2 million people will hit the streets in honor of pride and equality. Today's pride events have added significance in the wake of Friday's landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states. But the country remains divided on the issue, with many feeling the court imposed a law they didn't vote for. In a moment, we'll hear how students at Liberty University, a Christian school in Lynchburg, Va., are reacting to the Supreme Court's ruling. First, NPR's Alexandra Starr joins us from New York's gay pride march.

Hi, Alexandra.

ALEXANDRA STARR, BYLINE: Hi, Eric. How are you?

WESTERVELT: I'm good. So what's the mood there on the street?

STARR: The word I would use is exuberant. People are just so excited about the Supreme Court decision. There are a lot of families in attendance too, which I might not have expected. Here's Joseph Cassidy. He's on the mayor's float with his wife Cassie and 2-year-old son Oliver. He said they came out here today because of his son.

JOSEPH CASSIDY: It's just really significant to us that our son is going to be able to say to his grandchildren, you know, when I was born, gay people couldn't get married to each other. And, I mean, if you can imagine, that how farfetched that will sound then.

STARR: So, you know, that's a theme that's come up a lot amongst participants I've spoken with.

WESTERVELT: Now, Alexandra, today's the anniversary of a major event in the gay rights movement. It's the 46th anniversary of Stonewall, the Stonewall riots. Is that on the minds of people you've been talking to?

STARR: Yes, absolutely. It is obviously the anniversary. In 1969, riots broke out at Stonewall after the police raided the place. And most activists consider that to be the beginning of the gay rights movement. The Stonewall Inn actually has a float in the parade. Tina Pol describes herself as a gay ally. She's on the Stonewall float, and she thinks it's very fitting gay pride is coming right after the landmark Supreme Court decision.

TINA POL: We're just going to be exploding with just, you know. It's just, you know, it's nice. It's history in the making, you know. It's something that I've seen in my - change in my lifetime. I don't know. I'm just very moved by it and very excited about it.

WESTERVELT: Alexandra, today's pride parades have corporate sponsorship. That seems to show that these events have gone much more mainstream.

STARR: Yes, absolutely. Yesterday, I spoke with Chris Frederick, the managing director of NYC LGBT Pride. That's the group that organizes the weekend. This year, they have about 40 corporate sponsorships. Walmart signed on two years ago. I just saw its float. And I think that shows how mainstream support of gay rights has become.

WESTERVELT: Alexandra, the fight for marriage equality, you could argue, has really defined the last decade or more of LGBTQ activism. Is there a sense of what the next big battle is and where things go from here?

STARR: There's a widespread sentiment that there's a lot more to be done. I spoke with the actor Ian McKellen yesterday. He's one of the parade's grand marshals. He said that changing the law is the easy part.

IAN MCKELLEN: Beyond that, there's much more work and more difficult work to do - persuading people person by person, school by school, group by group that the old laws have gone and the prejudices that they represented should also go.

STARR: I've been attending gay pride events all weekend. On Friday, I was at Stonewall, and there I met Shannon Wheaton, she's a gay rights activist. And she had a long list of changes she would like to see going forward.

SHANNON WHEATON: Work place equality, you know, full, completely comprehensive health care, you know, not denying access to public accommodations and, I mean, God, the list goes on and on and on and on and on.

STARR: She also talked about transgender rights as the next frontier for the movement. But, you know, even as people have been talking about what needs to be done, there's been this euphoric mood at these events. The weather hasn't been great. I mean, it's grey and rainy today, but turnout is good. And people have just been talking about how thrilled they are.

WESTERVELT: NPR's Alexandra Starr. Thanks for talking with us.

STARR: Thank you, Eric. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.