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Gay pride parades held across nation

NEW YORK – Hundreds of thousands of raucous parade-goers took to the streets from New York to San Francisco on Sunday for annual gay pride parades, just weeks after an attack on a popular gay singer in New York and the 25th anniversary of the start of the AIDS epidemic.

Outrageous costumes were the norm along the parade routes.

In New York, the floats and marchers turned Fifth Avenue into a sea of rainbows.

“Everyone else has a chance to express their affection freely, and for one day in New York, you can be free and not feel ashamed or embarrassed,” said Roberto Hermosilla of Miami, who was attending his ninth parade.

Thousands lined Market Street for San Francisco’s 36th annual Gay Pride parade. Marching bands, dancers and floats bearing corporate logos of such companies as Delta Airlines and Wells Fargo streamed by.

“There’s much greater acceptance in corporate America,” said Michael Crowe, 63, who said high-profile corporate sponsorship is new to the event.

One float carried a bearded man, wearing a white lace miniskirt and fishnet stockings, who sang Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” as a band backed him. A half-dozen men dressed in underwear and top hats danced behind him.

The New York parade marked the very public and triumphant return of singer Kevin Aviance, who rode atop a fake pachyderm and a circus-themed float weeks after the drag queen was viciously beaten. Police have charged four young men, ages 16 to 20, with assaulting the artist while yelling anti-gay slurs.

Wearing a top hat, jacket, red stilettos, and little else, Aviance waved to the crowds, his mouth still wired shut from a fractured jaw he suffered in the attack.

The theme of New York’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride March was “The Fight for Love and Life,” but there was plenty of talk about hate following the Aviance attack. The city’s police department said reports of anti-gay bias crimes totaled 25 through mid-June – compared with 19 over the same period in 2005.

“A few hateful homophobes will not set us back,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is openly gay and marched in the parade.

The parades took place just weeks after the 25th anniversary of the start of the AIDS epidemic, and city leaders used the event to call for a greater focus on combatingHIV and AIDS.

In Atlanta, one of the largest parades in the country moved through the city as thunder clouds threatened_ what some saw as a metaphor for the legal storm brewing this week over gay marriage.

Georgia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments on whether to reinstate a constitutional ban on gay marriages.

“I have a lot of friends that are gay, and I would like to see them enjoy the same kind of equality and benefits as everyone else,” said Laura Martin, 25, an Atlanta waitress dressed in black lingerie who rode on an adult novelty shop float featuring a large bed.

Thousands gathered for the 25th Stonewall Columbus parade in Ohio. Michael Eblin, marching in his first parade, followed a black Hummer pulling a float of men. A cross-dresser in a beaded white gown perched atop the vehicle, holding a sign reading “The Closet.”

“For the first time, I’m going to be part of a majority,” the 18-year-old Eblin said just before the parade began.

A boy along the route wearing blue tie-dye held up a sign: “2 Moms. 2 Dads. Too Cool.”

The parades commemorate the Stonewall uprising of 1969, when patrons of a New York gay bar resisted a police raid.

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