State of New York: Hundreds of thousands of Americans took to streets from New York to San Francisco on Sunday to celebrate gay pride, honor those who died in the Orlando massacre and promote tolerance.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, buoyed by a double digit poll lead over Republican Donald Trump in the race for the White House, joined the tail end of the route in New York.
In San Francisco, the crowd cheered and electronic music blared from floats, a group carried placards with photos of the Orlando victims and men in leather bondage walked the route under bright sunshine.
"One year ago, love triumphed in our highest court. Yet LGBT Americans still face too many barriers. Let`s keep marching until they don`t," tweeted Clinton, joining a slew of elected state and city Democrats who took part.
She was referring to the US Supreme Court decision a year ago to legalize gay marriage across the country.
New York, which prides itself on being one of the most diverse cities on the planet, is the birthplace of the gay rights movement.
Just days before the parade, President Barack Obama designated America`s first LGBT national monument at the city`s Stonewall Inn, where protests that came to be known as the Stonewall Uprising erupted in 1969 following a police crackdown.
At the same spot, once synonymous with law enforcement brutality, a uniformed police band with "Happy Pride Day" signs played "God Bless America" to cheers.
The US events, also in Chicago and Seattle, were a celebration but also a tribute to the 49 people killed at a gay nightclub on June 12 in America`s single worst mass shooting, which has once again inflamed calls for gun control.
"We have extraordinary NYPD presence to make sure that this will not only be the biggest but the safest parade we`ve ever had," said Mayor Bill de Blasio before the first march kicked off in New York with a moment of silence.
"We will stand up to hatred. We will stand up to those who would try to undermine our values. We believe in a society for everyone. And I have to say the response has been amazing," he added.
Scouts carried 49 flags with rainbow stripes to honor the victims, a group was dressed head-to-toe in white and wore veils, with placards with the names and photographs of the Orlando dead hanging around their necks.Along the route, the newly created Gays Against Guns (GAG) pressure group staged a die-in to raise awareness, lying down on the hot road in a heap.
But despite somber remembrance, the parade was also a giant street party with participants dancing to thumping music, a giant arc of rainbow balloons and street vendors doing a brisk trade in all things rainbow.
Spectators donned rainbow feather boas and waved rainbow flags. Parents came with young children, tourists from overseas and exhibitionists indulged in show-stopping costumes and glittery catsuits complete with stilettos.
Police lined the route, which started in Midtown and culminated in Greenwich Village, home of the Stonewall Inn.
Subhi Nahas, a Syrian refugee who has addressed the UN Security Council on the plight of LGBT people in his home country, said the Orlando shooting had jolted gay immigrants` relative sense of security.
"I felt like the accident shook our sense of safety here in the States, like, profoundly, because we came here for safety," he said.
"Every parade has its own purpose but this year`s purpose has been very profound, I would say, for not only New York City but all of the United States and I really believe the whole world," said retired teacher Pedro Lugo.
"Tolerance is still a number one priority," added the 56-year-old, wearing a striped rainbow shirt and draped in colored necklaces. "We are all God`s children."
Davit Chirgadze, a 25-year-old restaurant manager from Tbilisi wearing Mickey Mouse shorts, said he flew all the way to New York just to attend Gay Pride and marry his Georgian husband, calling his country "very homophobic."
"You can live here and have a boyfriend, girlfriend and you can have your own way without any discrimination," he told AFP. "To my country I want to say, `love each other.`"