- Associated Press - Monday, June 30, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - Fifth Avenue is rarely as quiet as it was on Sunday just before one of the world’s biggest, most boisterous gay pride parades stepped off under a burst of rainbow-hued balloons.

Awaiting the annual pride march, thousands of people suddenly hushed and the music stopped for a moment of silence to remember those who died of AIDS.

Then the bands played on as marchers gay and straight, bisexual and transgender, young and old filled the avenue all the way to Greenwich Village - following a lavender line painted from midtown Manhattan to the West Village. There, they passed by the Stonewall Inn, where the nation’s gay rights movement began in 1969 with an uprising against a police raid.

Rights have come a long way since then, said David Knapp, holding up a parade sign that read, “88-year-old Boy Scout leader kicked out for being gay.”

“I campaigned for 20 years to achieve what we have today,” said Knapp, noting that boys who say they’re gay can join the Scouts, but not anyone over 18. “It’s still not OK.”

The parade started hours after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a major state initiative against HIV and AIDS.

New York state can end its three-decade HIV crisis by the year 2020, Cuomo said Sunday as he outlined an ambitious plan to deliver a knockout blow to the epidemic by boosting testing, reducing new infections and expanding treatment.

Waves of cheers greeted the governor, praised for pioneering marriage equality. Same-sex marriage in New York became legal on July 24, 2011.

“I’m so proud to be the governor of the state that passed marriage equality,” he said. “So there’s a lot of pride in being a New Yorker in the Pride Parade.”

Laura Moore was “illegally married” already in 1998, as her parade sign said.

“We had a big wedding,” said Moore, adding that she and her partner later married under New York law.

Other top officials walking Sunday included Mayor Bill de Blasio. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gail Brewer and city Public Advocate Letitia James.

It was a hot summer day in New York, and basics were on hand to fuel the feast - like water.

In front of the Marble Collegiate Church, members staffed an assembly line of water cups filling trays offered to marchers as they passed by.

The Dutch Reformed Church was a pioneer in sponsoring gay rights, serving water to parade participants since 1997.

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