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Thousands March in San Francisco, New York Gay Pride Parades

July 1, 1996

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Drag queens, ``nuns″ on skates and Dykes on Bikes shared the limelight with national politics and civil rights at San Francisco’s 26th annual gay pride parade Sunday.

In New York, men wearing long sequined gowns, feather boas, and tight miniskirts accompanied floats, marching bands and banners in that city’s 27th annual gay pride celebration. Some marchers wore only jockstraps and boots.

Gay pride participants in Seattle competed for the most outlandish outfits while pledging to fight anti-homosexual ordinances like a Colorado initiative that tried to ban laws protecting homosexuals from discrimination. The ordinance was recently overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Several hundred members of the Women’s Motorcycle Contingent _ commonly known as the Dykes on Bikes _ officially kicked off the San Francisco procession with a rev of their engines.

Following behind were the Lesbian and Gay Chorus of San Francisco, which sang Elton John favorites, Mayor Willie Brown, who rode in an historic trolley, and a host of politicians and police.

With the presidential election looming and a long list of gay-related issues before Congress, there was a political feel to the San Francisco event, known as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Parade.

Many marchers protested against measures before Congress that would outlaw federal recognition of same-sex marriages.

One of the most popular elements of the parade was the Freedom To Marry Task Force float _ a gazebo on a flatbed truck where gay couples were joined under gold cherubs and climbing gardenias.

``Today is a celebration,″ said grand marshal Roberta Achtenberg. ``It’s also a time to recommit ourselves to the decades of struggle and work there still is to do.″

Achtenberg, a lesbian, is a senior adviser at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In New York, thousands marched, danced and celebrated down Fifth Avenue despite a constant drizzle and chilly temperatures.

The parade route went past St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the site of past confrontations that this year yielded words of understanding from Cardinal John O’Connor.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Deputy Mayor Fran Reiter marched for 20 blocks alongside several city bureaucrats, including Taxi and Limousine Commissioner Christopher Lynn, who is openly gay.

Members of a gay synagogue, Beth Simchat Torah, danced their way downtown with a float encouraging people to attend their services in Greenwich Village.

Joan Roney rode her horse Bach along the route behind a banner, ``All Creatures ... the Androgynous, God Created Them All.″

Her parents, Marcia and John Roney, of Greenwich, Conn., walked with her.

``We’re here to support our daughter,″ the Roneys said almost in unison. ``This is our first year.″

``Though I’m very much a conservative politically, I do believe there’s room for all,″ Mr. Roney said.

At St. Patrick’s, O’Connor issued a statement alluding to past years when protesters were arrested outside the church.

``A number of good people with good intentions participate in this parade,″ he said. ``Some agree with church teachings and try to live accordingly. Some do not. All need our understanding and our love. None deserves our hatred.″

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