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Parade celebrates year of gay marriage in N.Y.

New York marked the anniversary of the state's same-sex marriage law with a gay pride march that exuded diversity, from grand marshal Cyndi Lauper to the mayor and the governor.

"New York is a place where you can do whatever you want to do," Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg declared before he joined the Manhattan parade at noon.

He said he had a message for the rest of America: "The government should get out of your personal life."

Hundreds of thousands of spectators crowded Fifth Avenue sidewalks a dozen deep, cheering and waving rainbow-colored flags for the annual festivities one year after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Marriage Equality Act into law. The law went into effect one month later, on July 24, 2011.

The governor appeared Sunday with his girlfriend, Food Network chef Sandra Lee.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn went to the parade as a newlywed; last month, she married longtime partner Kim Catullo.

"A year ago, I was walking with my fiancee," Quinn said. "Today, I'm marching with my wife, my father and the mayor."

Not far behind was a contingent of police officers.

A banner that stretched across Fifth Avenue from sidewalk to sidewalk bore the words Heritage of Pride, a nonprofit organization that organizes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender events in New York to commemorate the 1969 riots at Manhattan's Stonewall Inn, which have come to symbolize the gay rights movement.

Marchers holding up the banner included Evette Simmons, a 55-year-old nurse practitioner from Brooklyn.

This year's parade was special because, as a result of the marriage equality law, she said, she and others "are acknowledged as part of a legalized family of love and respect, and this has a ripple effect across the country and the world."

Each year since 1970, the parade has had a different theme. This time, it was called "Share the Love." Organizers say they want other states to pass legislation that allows same-sex marriage. Six states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage.

This year marked another first for the movement: A float carrying active members of the U.S. military who can now openly declare their sexuality while being allowed to serve.

"It's great to be proud of who we are," said Air Force 1st Lt. Josh Seefried, co-director of OutServe, a network of LGBT military personnel in active service.