National Pride Fests Celebrate LGBT Community

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Rainbow flags, pride and joy are on display across the nation and around the world this weekend as the LGBT community celebrates its past, present and future.

With a more than four-decade history, "Pride Weekend" celebrations are taking place Sunday in several U.S. cities, including New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

Events also took place internationally on Saturday in France, Spain, Mexico and Peru. The weekend-long event praises equal rights for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community and commemorates the 1969 inception of the modern gay rights movement.

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The festivities are expected to draw millions of people, including politicians and celebrities. Additionally, Silicon Valley companies, including Google, Facebook and Apple, have been lauded for their progressiveness for encouraging employees to participate.

It’s been a monumental year in the fight for LGBT rights: Last summer saw the federal strikedown of DOMA, spurring gay marriage legalization in California. A domino effect has since ensued with 20 states, most recently Utah, now allowing same-sex marriage.

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Many have speculated whether the Supreme Court will soon set a national rule on local gay-marriage bans.

But barriers still exist for equality. This month, the Texas Republican party endorsed reparative therapy, which aims to "turn" gay people straight. The therapy has only been banned for youths in two states over the last two years, sparking last week's launch of the national campaign #BornPerfect to combat the procedure.

People on a float dance and wave flags during the Gay Pride Parade in New York, Sunday, June 29, 2014. Fifth Avenue became one big rainbow on Sunday, as thousands of participants waving multicolored flags made their way down the street for New York City's annual Gay Pride march. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)Seth Wenig / AP

Chicago’s jubilee marked the first since the state’s recognition of same-sex marriage last November. Will Sheridan, a gay former college basketball player with Villanova University, was grand marshal.

Besides the community and celebrity grand marshals, San Francisco Pride parade organizers selected Chelsea Manning as honorary grand marshal.

The former information analyst incited a controversy for leaking classified intelligence to online organization WikiLeaks and last summer was convicted to 35 years in prison. Manning has since changed her first name from Bradley and is incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

In New York City, the four-mile parade spans from Midtown to Greenwich Village, where a stop at Stonewall Inn recalls the 45th anniversary of the pivotal riots that fueled contemporary LGBT activism.

The streets were flooded with attendees donning rainbow buttons, socks and bow ties, lining the runway for floats and marchers parading down the street. The grand marshals were actor Jonathan Groff, activist Laverne Cox and Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Cox is also an actress on the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, whose float incited roaring cheers.

It was Jeff Ball’s first time celebrating at the parade since fully coming out last October to his parents and family. Ball, 19, of Long Island, joined the festivities that he said “send a message of love and community.”

While this year’s incremental milestones for same-sex marriage makes him ecstatic, Ball said its “commercialization” could overshadow the focus on other LGBT issues, including homelessness, drug abuse and equality in schools and jobs.

“Progress isn't one-dimensional,” he said.