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Gays dare to hope at Pride

The hope in the air in Jackson Heights at the Pride Parade was strong Sunday, just days after Gov. David Paterson declared that New York state would recognize gay marriages performed legally in other jurisdictions.

The smiles of the hundreds of marchers seemed brighter, the dancers flashier, the drag queens more fabulous, the onlookers happier as the groups made their way along 37th Avenue between 89th and 75th streets.

A little boy with a mohawk marched alongside the group Brooklyn Pride, who were carrying an enormous rainbow flag. Any time the group stopped, he ran around on and under the colored fabric, grinning in delight.

An all-volunteer cheerleading squad called Cheer New York shook sparkly pompons and performed routines all along the route. Several groups drove trucks carrying enormous speakers playing music to encourage the crowd to shake their groove thing. Immigrant groups, with dancers clad in traditional garb, also marched under banners promoting voting rights or amnesty.

Many Queens elected officials came to Jackson Heights for the festivities, among them City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-East Elmhurst), state Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing).

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills), a 2009 mayoral candidate, marched with two staffers, telling chuckling onlookers, "You gotta have a congressman named Weiner at Pride."

Some of the speakers referred to Paterson's decision, announced last week, to recognize marriages of homosexual couples performed in other jurisdictions — California, Massachusetts and Canada — and said it was a step toward legalizing the unions in New York.

"There's nowhere in the city like the borough of Queens. We're here from all over the world and arrived here looking for the promised land of equality and dignity," said the parade's media chairman, Danny Dromm. "I'd like to thank Gov. Paterson for moving that right one step closer."

Queens SAGE (short for Senior Action in a Gay Environment) held an open house all day Sunday, with food and conversation, at their Jackson Heights center, steps away from the thumping music and colorful costumes of the parade route.

"It's a great decision. I'm very happy about it," Queens SAGE Director John Nagel said of Paterson's announcement.

Rob Sinacore, a Staten Islander who joined Queens SAGE eight years ago, was optimistic about the future of gay marriage in New York.

"I think it's very positive. I think it bodes well for New York's possibility of accepting gay marriage." he said. "I know a number of gay couples who've been together 20, 30, 50 years" but cannot marry.

Civil unions between gay couples, legal in New Jersey, are an imperfect alternative, he said. Civil unions are not valid in all states the way marriages are, do not guarantee federal benefits, and the term 'union' is not seen as equal to marriage.

"Even if you have all the papers filled out, it's not the same," Sinacore said.

Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at achristodoulides@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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