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Outside the Stonewall

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Tomorrow is the New York gay pride march, but if you weren’t here last night you missed the party. Same-sex marriage has come to the Empire State, the sixth and by far the largest to endorse full equality in what, for better or worse, is now the only gay-rights issue on the agenda in America. The state legislature in Albany – so corrupt and incompetent that the New York Times, a few elections back, told readers to abandon every single member and ‘vote for an opponent, any opponent’ – tried to pass a similar bill in 2009, and the unexpectedly large defeat that year meant that nobody was celebrating this time until the gavel fell. Two years ago we got no Republican votes; yesterday there were four, and the city erupted. Christine Quinn, the speaker of the City Council and now (following Anthony Weiner’s resignation) the probable next mayor of New York, cried during a press conference and announced that she and her girlfriend are planning their wedding.

These days the best gay bars in town are in the East Village or Brooklyn, but last night there was only one party worth being at: the mash outside the Stonewall Inn in the West Village, where in June 1969 the least assimilated members of what we now call ‘the gay community’ – drag queens, hustlers, homeless men – beat back a police raid and set in motion American gay liberation. Now the West Village is increasingly banker territory, but last night was madness. Teenagers were clambering onto the George Segal sculpture that commemorates the riots for a better view of the crowd, thousands of us: men who’ve been together for decades calling each other ‘husband’ and ‘ball and chain’, boys in suits dancing with boys in glitter, club kids, interlopers from New Jersey, even one smiling police officer. I think we were all still shocked. I hugged some strangers, I flirted hard, but last night outside the Stonewall was a chaste affair, and I had to laugh when the DJ played Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘Let’s Talk about Sex’, because nobody was.

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