Beautiful skies, Planned Parenthood lead Pride Sunday

Alexis McGill Johnson and others with Planned Parenthood march at NYC Pride on June 26.

A clear but hot early summer day greeted New Yorkers for the return of the official NYC Pride March on the last Sunday in June.

This was a parade that, like many others over the years, responded swiftly to current events. With the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade only days before, Planned Parenthood became a guest of honor, marching at the front of the parade.

“It’s unbelievable to be here in community with all of these folks here who care about pride in their identity,” Alexis McGill Johnson, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, told Gay City News. She added that the Supreme Court’s decision was a harbinger for changes soon to come.

“They told us this,” she said, adding, “the justices basically made that case. We’ve already seen the laws being introduced in other states. They’re moving on to marriage equality. They’ll be moving on to contraception. They’ll be criminalizing IVF. It is horrible with what’s going on right now towards the end of democracy.”

The group received some of the loudest cheers along the route, which saw 1.5 million people in attendance and around 50,000 marchers, according to Heritage of Pride.

The five grand marshals this year were TV personality TS Madison, “Saturday Night Live” star Punkie Johnson, athlete and advocate Schuyler Bailar, activist and speaker Dominique Morgan, and attorney Chase Strangio of the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project.

Not welcome to march at the Parade in uniform this year was GOAL, the Gay Officers Action League, the group representing LGBTQ police officers. GOAL held a protest concurrent with the Parade on Sixth Avenue, near the Jefferson Market Library.

Speaking on the exclusion, GOAL President Brian Downey told Gay City News that the group views the policy as “hurtful” and an example of “internalized homophobia.”

“The same issues that every other LGBTQI+ person has every day when they wake up in the morning are no different than the life experiences of our folks.” Downey added that police are already at the event, stating, “look around you. There’s probably 1,000 police out here today. This is our day too and we really should be out here.”

Referring to recent attacks on Pride events, he added, “Look at what happened in Oslo. Look at what happened in Idaho. You have Clarence Thomas, basically stating that we’re the next target, you know, in Obergefell. So, I mean, we aren’t staying home. You’re not going to erase us. We will not allow the history of the 40-year history of this organization to be erased.”

GOAL’s protest was joined by members of Fire Flag, the LGBTQ+ firefighters’ group. Fire Flag President, Michele Fitzsimmons told Gay City News, “The members of GOAL have done so much for the LGBTQ+ community in enabling them to have a better relationship with the police… Not that long ago, they had to sue to be able to march in uniform. And then for Heritage of Pride to turn around and tell them they’re not allowed to — it’s like a slap in the face.”

New York City’s Pride festivities came after nearly a dozen people were shot, and two were killed, at a shooting at a gay bar in Oslo, Norway, on June 25. That city’s Pride celebration was cancelled in response to the shooting. Heidi Olufsen, Norway’s Consul-General in New York, was in attendance at New York City Pride and told Gay City News that the attack was being investigated as an act of terrorism.

“For me, it’s very important to stand up for everyone’s rights,” Olufsen said. “We should have equal rights. So, my participation in this march was decided long ago; I would have done it anyway. But it shows just how important it is even in in a country like Norway, where we kind of assume we have equal rights and that we are respected for whoever we love. But we still see it’s being challenged.”

While the horrors of the Oslo attack were being condemned, one European country demonstrating surprising advances in LGBTQ+ issues is Italy. This year marked the first time there was official Italian government representation in New York’s parade. Marching with the United Nations contingent was Italian Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTIQ+ people, Minister Fabrizio Petri, the first person to hold this position. The Tri-State area Comite, an Italian government organization representing Italians living abroad, also marched for the first time in the parade. Francesca DiMateo, a journalist and spokesperson for the group, told Gay City News, “This is the first time, as Italians, to be here in the New York City Parade and this is also the 50th anniversary for the Italian Stonewall,” referring to Italy’s first pride parade in Bologna in 1972, held by the LGBTQ+ rights group Arcigay. The Comite, with a recently elected openly gay member, Riccardo Costa, carried an original banner from that first parade.

Jane Clementi, the mother of Tyler Clementi, the gay Rutgers University student who died by suicide from the George Washington Bridge, marched in the parade. Clementi was also worried about the current changes in the political atmosphere and what it will mean for vulnerable young people. She told Gay City News that despite more awareness of the potential for suicide among LGBTQ+ youth in the aftermath of her son’s death, “there is still much more work done, especially with the rulings that are happening within the court. It’s almost becoming a split country. And we have to be careful about LGBTQ rulings that might get changed down the road.”

And speaking of politics, a change for this year was that some politicians marched ahead of the actual noon parade start time. They took their first steps down Fifth Avenue beginning around 11:00 a.m., soon after the Heritage of Pride press conference. Patrons who didn’t line up well in advance near the beginning of the formation would have missed seeing the likes of Governor Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James, US Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, and many others.

At Pride’s end, those with tickets headed to Governor’s Island, for the second day of Pride Island, a music festival with DJs, singers and a sea of shirtless wonders dancing until the sun set over the Jersey City Skyline.

The Supreme Court was fresh on everyone’s minds this year.Michael Luongo
Emphasizing bodily autonomy.Michael Luongo
The Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps marches along.Michael Luongo
Grand Marshal Chase Strangio rides in style.Michael Luongo
Senator Chuck Schumer.Michael Luongo
A quick pose for the camera.Michael Luongo
Grand marshal Dominique Morgan waves to the crowd.Michael Luongo
It wouldn’t be Pride without some leather.Michael Luongo
All smiles in the hot sun.Michael Luongo
The march kicks off.Michael Luongo
Grand marshal Punkie Johnson smiles for the camera.Michael Luongo
Another grand marshal, Schuyler Bailar, waves the Trans Flag.Michael Luongo
Grand marshal Ts Madison rides along.Michael Luongo
Soaking in Pride Sunday from above.Michael Luongo
Some of the best outfits of the day.Michael Luongo
Enjoying the view from Pride Island.Michael Luongo
The scene at Pride Island.Michael Luongo
On the ferry to Governor’s Island for Pride Island.Michael Luongo
Having a picnic on Governor’s Island.Michael Luongo