A Gay Pride Parade to Remember

People march down Fifth Avenue during the annual Gay Pride Parade in New York on June 28, 2015. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Sunday's New York City Gay Pride Parade struck a particularly celebratory tone this year, coming just two days after the Supreme Court's landmark ruling on gay marriage. All 50 state flags were marched toward the front of the parade, symbolizing the fact gay marriage is now legal in every U.S. state.

"It's definitely one of the most historical parades New York City will have," says Michelle Ramirez of the East Coast AIDS Assistance Fund. Ramirez, in dress and tiara, originates from Tennessee, where she says more conservative attitudes make the pride parade more difficult and even dangerous: "In Tennessee, we've had shooters with BB guns."

Sunday's march, lasting from 12 p.m. until 6 p.m., began at 36th Street and Fifth Avenue and ends at Christopher and Greenwich streets, the site of the historic Stonewall Inn. Thousands of people were taking part.

The march is part of Pride Week, an annual celebration held internationally to promote the gay rights movement. In New York City, other events include Pridefest and Dance on the Pier.

The Supreme Court decision, bringing the U.S. into the growing ranks of countries to legalize gay marriage, has been met with praise, and many prominent companies including Google, Apple, Facebook and Gap have voiced support for the ruling. The U.S. follows Ireland, where gay marriage was legalized in a referendum in held May.

The national atmosphere is much changed from 1969, when patrons of the Stonewall Inn and the NYPD battled in the streets of the West Village after a police raid on the then illegal gay bar. The Stonewall Inn has since become a monument to the struggle for equal rights of the gay community and was voted a NYC landmark earlier this week.

The NYPD of 2015 is no longer the opponent, having changed its Facebook and Twitter presence to commemorate the gay marriage decision by imposing the gay pride rainbow colors on its emblem under the caption: "The NYPD proudly protects and serves everyone."

Among this year's parade grand marshals are a famous British actor, Sir Derek Jacobi, and a Ugandan gay rights activist, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera. Uganda, where attitudes toward homosexuality are deeply conservative, has made being gay illegal and even actively encourages its citizens to inform on homosexual behaviour.

Meanwhile in Turkey, a pride march Sunday was met with a police water cannon, Reuters reported. The march, known to be the largest in the Muslim world, proved controversial this year, as it fell during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

In the U.S., those celebrating gay pride are focusing on the recent progress made in the Supreme Court.

"It means everyone is equal," says Stephen Carlstrom, who models for Americana Model and is attending the parade. "It means we're a step ahead, we are the next generation!"

According to Matthew Rivas, of the LaGuardia Straight and Gay Alliance, the day is ultimately one of commeroration: "It's important to remember all the effort the past LGBQ community put into making this happen; we should use pride to give them honor and respect."