by Barbara Nevins Taylor
A mostly young, happy crowd stood three deep along Christopher Street where the Gay Pride Parade strutted and rolled by the Stonewall Inn bar. N.Y.P.D. officers along the route seemed more like tour guides for the out-of-towners enjoying the parade and the sunny day, than cops on the lookout for trouble.
It was easy to get a good vibe.
And that says a lot because the New York parade celebrated the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall riot, which marked the beginning of the gay civil rights movement. Just a bit of quick history in case you’re unfamiliar: in the 1960s police raided gay clubs pretty regularly because it was illegal for gay people to dance with each other and it was illegal to sell them alcohol.
A little after 1 a.m. on August 28, 1969, eight police officers targeted the Stonewall and began to arrest the nearly 200 people who were there.
At the time, it was a popular, noisy bar filled with drag queens, transgender young men and other young people. The police lined everyone up to wait for wagons to take them away, and while they were waiting a crowd gathered. The crowd clashed with the outnumbered police officers. Their protest sparked other protests around the city and helped create the gay liberation movement.
The 2014 parade also comes almost a year after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which banned federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Since then, seven states have legalized gay marriage to bring the total number of states where it’s legal to 19.
But something else caught our attention. It was also fitting that right across from Sheridan Square Park young men stood with signs to offer another kind of message at the Gay Pride Parade. Marketers Benjamin Sherman and Damian Charles brought their “Say It With A Condom” business to the street where it matters.
“We’re doing this for free today,” Sherman told us. “We think it’s a good message and important to be out here.”
Sherman began putting messages on condoms during the 2008 presidential campaign when he placed photos of Barak Obama and John McCain on condoms and sold more than a million. Since then, he launched a company that sells the marketing service to companies and anyone who wants to put a message on a condom.
At Sheridan Square, Sherman and the crew carried signs that said things like
“I’m Gay And That’s Okay.”
“Being Gay Is Not Voluntary. Hate Is.”
” Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Straight, Human.”
Important messages for sure. Promoting his business, yeah. But subtly, or not so subtly, reminding people to use condoms is a pretty good message, too.