Rainbow confetti streamed through the air as a crowd erupted in jubilation in front of the Stonewall Inn Friday after the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
Some in the crowd gathered outside the Greenwich Village bar that is considered the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement said the legalization of gay marriage was synonymous with freedom.
“It means that we are really free and that we are actually equal — not under some people’s eyes, but in the law, which is important,” said Christopher Cheleuitte, of Ithaca.
Brooklyn resident Zachary Violette said the importance of the ruling was self-evident.
“It just feels right,” said Violette, who was married in New York State in May of this year. “I would not have imagined this just a few years ago.”
The ruling also came just as the city prepares to celebrate Pride weekend, which culminates in one of the country’s largest LGBT parades on Sunday.
“This year will be extra special,” said Mary O’Shaughnessy, a second generation Manhattanite who recalled fondly people in the gay community whom she grew up around in New York during the 1960s.
Like many in the crowd, she paid tribute to friends gained and lost during the fight for marriage equality over the years.
“I think of them today and I hope they’re looking down from whatever afterlife they have and are happy for us too,” O’Shaughnessy said.
Also on her mind were friends and activists lost during the AIDs epidemic in the 1980s.
“Those were people who would have gotten married but couldn’t,” O’Shaughnessy said.
While the celebratory and commemorative atmosphere was apparent in the gathering of people, as songs were sung, rainbow flags were waved and several lovers were lifted into the air, some also noted that the fight for equality in America remains an on-going one.
Luis Conti and Paul Grajalas traveled to the city together from Puerto Rico to march in the Pride parade Sunday and had been at the Stonewall Inn since 8:30 a.m. awaiting the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“For us, it means a lot because we made a few efforts [in Puerto Rico] to try and approve a law to allow for civil unions,” said Conti. “We’re coming from a conservative island, and it has been a taut fight.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling is a major step forward in helping to pave the way for more significant social change in Puerto Rico, Conti said.
“We are in the right path, but we are not there yet,” Grajalas said. “We need to have fuller commission of what we are. We are human beings like everyone else.”
For Cheleuitte, a newcomer to the legendary and recently landmarked Stonewall Inn, the celebration of the Supreme Court’s decision will continue this weekend with dancing and “a few adult beverages” in the Village.
“I’m just happy to be here,” said Cheleuitte. “It’s kind of an historical day.”