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(All photos by Ryan Williams)

At 42nd Annual Pride Parade, Chicagoans Have Plenty to Celebrate (SLIDESHOW)

BY Taylor Long

Just as PrideFest was kicking off, New York became the sixth and largest state to legalize gay marriage.

It wasn’t just sunny weather that caused record numbers of Chicagoans to clog the streets of Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood this past weekend for the 42nd annual Chicago PrideFest Street Festival and Parade. So far this year, there’s much for the gay community to celebrate.

Late Friday, just as PrideFest was kicking off, New York became the sixth and largest state to legalize gay marriage—a development many parade-goers saw as an assurance that the tide of public opinion is turning when it comes to LGBT rights. The decision, which had been championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, means gay couples will be marrying in New York by late July, The New York Times reported. (Text continues below.)

Only months earlier, in January, residents of Illinois felt a similar victory when Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Civil Union Act, a bill that provided gay and lesbian couples with state-level spousal rights beginning June 1, 2011. It’s been a good year for for Chicago’s gay community—which has the third highest number of LGBT couples in the nation—although many await the day gay marriage is legal in Illinois.

In May, a poll found that for the first time, a majority of U.S. residents support gay marriage. President Barack Obama, who has been met with pressure since the 2008 election to “come out of the closet” when it comes to his position on LGBT rights, has followed this new majority’s lead. Slate reported that while Obama has endorsed gay civil unions and the repeal of the military’s ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy since the 2008 election, evidence of growing American support for LGBT issues has led him to be frank in his “evolving” stance on gay marriage. For example, Obama recently endorsed the U.N.’s gay rights protection resolution—the first international consensus on gay rights of its kind, which will commission a “global report on discrimination against gays.” On Wednesday, Obama will host a gay pride reception at the White House to conclude June’s LGBT Pride Month.

Even as the last floats crawled through packed streets on Chicago’s North Side and parade-goers retreated to rooftop parties and packed bars, a feeling of excitement hung in the air. Reports of slashed float tires—a suspected hate crime—did not damper the mood. The fight for gay rights is far from over in the United States (not to mention the rest of the world), but this year, Chicago’s LGBT community had something to celebrate.

Taylor Long is a summer 2011 in These Times Web intern.

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