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New York City's Pride parade responds to the Supreme Court abortion decision

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

For the first time since the pandemic, New York City's Pride March was back again in all its glory on a beautiful June Sunday.

(CHEERING)

MARTIN: Floats, marching bands and celebration filled the streets of Manhattan. But marchers and spectators also showed up to protest the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade. Camille Peterson got there early and brings us the story.

CAMILLE PETERSEN, BYLINE: A few hours before the parade, splashes of rainbow balloons and flags start dotting Fifth Avenue. Pride classics like "I'm Coming Out" play in the distance. And one of the parade's grand marshals, comedian Punkie Johnson, gets her sash on.

PUNKIE JOHNSON: I'm about to bust out crying. It got all our beautiful colors on it. We got the black and the brown representing our Black and brown people.

PETERSEN: Johnson says she's dreamed of being in the New York Pride Parade since she was growing up. When a friend told her about it...

JOHNSON: I was like, yo, they got other gay people in the world? And ever since that day, it was like, I'm going to be in that parade. Never - I never thought I would be the grand marshal (laughter).

PETERSEN: A lot of people are thrilled to be celebrating in person this year, including Alyssa Marko, who rides with the Sirens Women's Motorcycle Club.

ALYSSA MARKO: Stomping my feet in joy (laughter), you know? And it was like, there is no words. I'm looking forward to saying that, we're here. We're queer. COVID didn't ungay me.

PETERSEN: Marko says this year's parade is especially meaningful because of the Supreme Court's decision on Roe v. Wade. In his concurring opinion on the abortion ruling, conservative Justice Clarence Thomas argued the court should review other precedents, too, including its decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

MARKO: Letting the decision about Roe v. Wade out just before the - two days before Pride March and then saying, hey, we're going to look at all of these others - it's very clear that they're coming out to get us.

PETERSEN: A few blocks away, the Lesbian and Gay Big Apple Corps, a marching band, rehearses.

Can you give me a hint or, like, a little tease of one of the songs?

KIRA KNOTTS: Well, our theme this year is called Unstoppable.

PETERSEN: That's alto saxophonist Kira Knotts. Another saxophonist, Violet Fortier, says they think this year's parade is returning to its roots - as a protest.

VIOLET FORTIER: And just with what's going on with the Supreme Court, as well as the attacks on trans youth throughout the country at the state level, it really makes it feel important to be out here being visible.

PETERSEN: As kickoff time approaches, another one of the grand marshals, trans athlete Schuyler Bailar holds signs that say, bans off our bodies and, trans athletes belong in sport. And marcher Steven Love Menendez shows off his all-gold, glittering outfit inspired by Plato and ancient Greece.

STEVEN LOVE MENENDEZ: Where democracy was born.

PETERSEN: Menendez says it feels like LGBTQ rights are at great risk now.

MENENDEZ: It's so important for us to be here, loud and proud and joyous because I feel that love and joy are the only things that can overcome hate.

PETERSEN: Along Fifth Avenue, rows of spectators are lined up, waving Pride flags. At noon, with a big pop of confetti and glitter, a platoon of Planned Parenthood marchers kicks off the parade.

(CHEERING)

PETERSEN: And as promised, the marching band performs on the theme of Unstoppable.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARCHING BAND MUSIC)

PETERSEN: There's so much glitter, the Flatiron Building and the sky are actually sparkling. For NPR News, I'm Camille Petersen in New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF MARCHING BAND MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Camille Petersen