Celebrating LGBTQIA+, the New York City Pride March steps out at noon from the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 25th Street at the north end of Madison Square Park. This week, emotions surrounding Pride turned up when the Supreme Court, while overturning Roe v. Wade, hinted at future rights rollbacks, including gay marriage.
by David Stone
Pride March: 50 Plus Years of Tradition
The first Pride March set the table for gay rights in 1970. Since, it’s become bigger, brighter, more militant and filled with cheer.
When the Stonewall Riots of 1969 kicked off the modern gay rights movement, one of the first orders of business was a Pride March. The following year, on June 28, 1970 – the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots – activists held the Christopher Street Liberation Day, which is now widely known as the first Pride March. The police estimate of 2,000 marchers has been disputed – many say there were closer to 10,000 – but what’s certain is that the event was electric.
“It was one of the most fabulous things I’ve ever seen,” activist and Stonewall veteran Dick Leitsch told The New York Times in 2015. “There were all these people of every conceivable type – black, white, Puerto Rican, Asian. It was the most gorgeous thing.”
The march went from Christopher Street, the site of the Stonewall Inn, up Sixth Avenue to Central Park. There, at the end of what would become known as Pride Month, activists held a rally for gay rights.
“It was the first time I ever saw so many gays in one place,” Leitsch said. “It was like, ‘Oh my god, we’re not alone.'”
The march would become an annual event, though it would be nearly a decade before it became the massive celebration that it is today. In 1979, an estimated 100,000 people attended the Pride March.
Today, the Pride March is one of the largest in the city, with an estimated two million people attending each year. The march has become more inclusive over the years, with a strong focus on human rights. This year’s march – which steps off at noon from the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 25th Street at the north end of Madison Square Park – is expected to be especially emotional, given the Supreme Court’s recent hint that it may roll back gay marriage rights.
Mayor Eric Adams announced, early this month, that City Hall will be lit in rainbow colors in honor of Pride Month. In addition, City Hall will fly the Pride flag, the Philly Pride flag and the Transgender flag on the portico throughout June to show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community in New York and across the country.
“During Pride Month, we reflect on the enormous strides we have made in securing equal rights for LGBTQ+ New Yorkers — and how far we still have yet to go,” said Adams.
“As the home of Stonewall, we recognize our fraught history, the progress we have made together since 1969, and the work ahead of us to ensure every New Yorker of every identity feels the safety and support of a loving community — including transgender people of color who are disproportionately targeted by senseless hate.”
The Pride March is just one of many events taking place during Pride Month. Other events include the Queens Pride Parade, the Brooklyn Pride Parade, and the NYC PrideFest. For more information on Pride Month events, visit nycpride.org.
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