- Associated Press - Sunday, June 26, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) — One of the world’s oldest and largest gay pride parades turned into a carnivallike victory celebration Sunday of New York’s historic decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

A half-million people were expected to participate in the march, which comes two days after state lawmakers extended full marriage rights to gay couples.

“I’m really, really proud of New York,” said Hannah Thielmann, a student at Fordham University in the Bronx who was waiting for the parade to step off with her girlfriend, Christine Careaga.

The couple, both 20, were dressed as brides.

Ms. Careaga said her mother called her crying tears of joy after the New York Senate voted on the measure Friday.

“Every mother wants her child to be happily married,” Ms. Careaga said.

State Sen. Tom Duane, a Manhattan Democrat who is gay, planned to join in the festivities.

“I always love the parade,” Mr. Duane said. “It’s like Christmas and New Year’s all wrapped into one, but I think it’ll be particularly joyous, so I’m really looking forward to that.”

Mr. Duane said he and his partner first discussed marriage when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004, but they opted not to make any decisions until it became legal in New York. They have not made any plans yet.

“That will be next week’s project,” Mr. Duane said.

The revelry was to include floats, music, dancing — and perhaps a few surprise engagements.

The parade begins at noon at 36th Street and Fifth Avenue before heading downtown. It ends at Greenwich and Christopher streets, near the site where gays rebelled against authorities and repressive laws outside the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village on June 28, 1969 — an event that gave rise to the gay rights movement.

A year later, several hundred people marched through the neighborhood to commemorate the riots in what is commonly considered the world’s first gay pride parade.

This year’s grand marshals include author and sex columnist Dan Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, who married in Canada; the Rev. Pat Bumgardner, senior pastor of Metroplitan Community Church of New York and a proponent of gay rights; and the Imperial Court of New York, which raises money for gay health and social services.

The gay-marriage law, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday, does not take effect for 30 days. It was passed amid opposition from influential religious groups in the state.

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