The NYC Gay Pride Parade is held on the last Sunday of June. It is just one of many celebrations that occur during the
action-packed Pride Week. The parade, originally known as the Christopher Street Festival, began in 1970 as a tribute
to the riots that took place at the Stonewall Inn a year earlier. Stonewall was a popular gay and lesbian bar, which became
the epicenter for violent protests against the unlawful treatment of gays by the New York Police Department. The Stonewall Riots are now considered the major turning point in the Gay Rights
Movement. To date, the annual parade route still passes Stonewall to pay homage to its significance.
The success of the Gay Rights movement in New York inspired many to action, and soon the movement was spreading across the
country and even globally. The Christopher Street Festival, not only attracted the attention of the local LGBT community, but
also brought supporters from all over the country. Despite excitement and momentum gained through the movement, the LGBT
community still had many obstacles to overcome. In the early 1980’s, the AIDS health crises was thrust to the
forefront of the movement as public perception often categorized it as a gay man’s disease and further stigmatized the
already marginalized gay community. Furthermore, a lack of support from local and federal governments intensified the need for
activism and led to the creation of organizations like GMHC. As AIDS stabilized and awareness improved, the role of the
parade shifted focus during the 1990’s towards the civil inequalities displayed toward the LGBT community. One area of
focus included the United States military's ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, which banned openly gay
men and women. Another important matter was the federal government’s passing of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act
(DOMA), which allowed states to prohibit same sex marriage. Despite setbacks, the annual parade gave a voice to the
LGBT community, and emboldened them to continue to fight for equal rights.
The purpose of the parade has evolved to include recognition of the fight against AIDS and to remember lives lost to
illness, violence and neglect. Those lives are also remembered with a moment of silence, which has been a parade tradition
since 1986. In recent years, the Gay Rights Movement has enjoyed several new developments in the fight for equality. In
June 2011, New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo signed into law the legalization of same sex marriage. In June 2013, a major
victory for the LGBT community was won in the United States Supreme Court, when the ruling on DOMA was declared to be
unconstitutional. These victories have given hope to the community and activists across the country, but the fight is long
from over. Parade marchers have focused on support of the ongoing fight for gay liberation and marriage equality. The LGBT
Pride March is sponsored by the organization called Heritage of Pride, an organization which has been one of the leading
figures in the pride movement in NYC.
The parade route begins down Fifth Ave. @ 36th St., makes a stop at the reviewing stand on 8th St. before turning west on
Christopher St., towards Greenwich St. Participants are encouraged to express themselves in any way they see fit, as
long as they comply with New York State law. Vibrant costumes, creative displays and decorative floats are the norm, thus contributing to the free spirited event.