Giving LGBT New Yorkers even more cause for celebration at the annual Gay Pride Weekend, the Supreme Court this week struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that barred married same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits in states like New York that have legalized gay marriage. “This is going to be a historic weekend. I think your going to see this celebration reach new heights based on what was decided,” said Chris Frederick, managing director of Heritage of Pride, which the weekend's official events.
Frederick added that in light of the ruling, this year's theme, Rain to Rainbows, seems especially appropriate. “It's such a true statement of where we've come from as a nation,” he said.
Edith Windsor, a New Yorker and the plaintiff in the DOMA case, is one of the grand marshals of the march, along with Earl Fowlkes, President and CEO of the Center for Black Equity, and singer and gay activist Harry Belafonte. “Without Edie Windsor none of this would have been possible,” Frederick said. Windsor said she was “honored” to be among the marshals. “If someone had told me 50 years ago that I would be the marshal of New York City Gay Pride Parade in 2013 at the age of 84, I never would have believed it,” she said in an email.
Windsor said she would watch the parade with her longtime partner Thea in her wheelchair before she died in 2009. “So given both my own personal story and this important moment for our community and our nation, I am absolutely thrilled,” Windsor said. Frederick also said this year’s Pride events mark an important moment in the gay rights movement. “I think the March is the strongest example for that,” he said. “The energy of that event is largely emblematic of the history of where we’ve come from.” The March goes along Fifth Avenue from Midtown to Christopher and Greenwich Streets, where 34 years ago police raided gay club the Stonewall Inn, causing riots and igniting the modern gay rights movement.
Frederick thinks the Supreme Court decision will bring another 10 to 15 percent more attendees than last year's March, or 1.7 million total parade-goers. Catering to increased interest, organizers expanded this year’s festivities, loading the week of the March with 10 official events around the city. Frederick said they also added a couple more exclusive events in order to compete with club promoters and other for-profit venues looking to cash-in on Pride.
“We’re finally getting back that control, so to speak,” he said, adding that official Pride events benefit the nonprofit group and make the March possible. Frederick said he thinks the week, even with its most events to date, could grow in the coming years with public and personal acceptance. “I think we’ll get bigger as people become more comfortable with themselves and are able to accept their own sexuality,” he said. But for Frederick and many Pride participants, this week is about celebrating.
Windsor said she’s marched in the parade for the past several years “carrying a huge rainbow flag.” “Last year, I was so elated that I danced my way down the street for the entire route of the Parade,” she said.