New York City was awash with marchers and revellers in their thousands yesterday, all celebrating the Big Apple’s 41st annual gay pride event. One of the parade’s grand marshalls was Constance McMillen, the Mississippi teenager who fought with her high school to be allowed to attend the senior prom with her girlfriend.

Lieutenant Dan Choi, the Iraq War veteran and outspoken critic of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy and Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard, murdered in a homophobic attack in 1998, were also marshalls.

Other notables who marched in the parade included Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Governor David Paterson.

In the blazing afternoon sunshine, the parade, which included floats and an array of gaudy and outrageous costumes, moved down Fifth Avenue towards Greenwich Village, location of the famed Stonewall Inn, the iconic birthplace of the modern gay rights movement.

Speaking to the New York Daily News, teacher Anthony Burns, 54, said he had attended every Gay Pride Parade since they began in 1969. “I smile – that’s what my friends would want,” added Mr Burns, who said he had lost more than 50 friends to AIDS.

It was a weekend of pride celebrations across the USA, with events taking place in Chicago and Minneapolis-St Paul among others. However, a fatal shooting at San Francisco Pride served to sour the overall mood.