NEW YORK -- Summertime in the city, when activities that would have seemed strange a generation ago (a gay pride parade) take on the appearance of normality, and the normal (eating hot dogs) is taken to amusing extremes.
The gay parade late last month followed passage of a same-sex marriage bill by the Democrat-dominated New York Assembly (the lower house of the state legislature). That political victory set the tone for a show of strength: The parade was like the Union Army marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington in 1865 following the Civil War's conclusion, a display of overwhelming force and a warning to the recalcitrant that it's time to give in.
The first marchers in the parade were contingents from assorted denominations, followed by a whole slew of Episcopalians from churches named after probably discomforted saints: Clement, George, Mark, Bart, Michael, Luke. Signs sought religious respectability: "God made us Queer," "Deacons in Drag," "Dykes for Christ," "Gay by the grace of God," "Called out," etc.
Conservatives like to pass around videos of San Francisco gay paraders dressed as nuns or flaunting whips and chains, but the New York parade emphasized gay sports activities -- softball, soccer, sailing, and so forth -- and normally dressed contingents from colleges, businesses and governmental groups. Some floats did reflect a harsher reality: a dozen health groups advertised their HIV testing and demands for government-provided medical insurance and lower-cost pharmaceuticals.
Those pleas for government action showed that the gay movement's success is still highly tied to the potency of its lobbying, political contributions, media connections and support from judges. The movement needs government power to force Christian adoption agencies to place children with gay parents, to forbid "hate speech" critical of homosexuality and to require schools to teach that all kinds of "families" are equally beneficial.
The 91st annual Nathan's Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest was different. You may have read that the Coney Island event produced a new champion, Californian Joey Chestnut, who dethroned Takeru Kobayashi, the six-time Japanese winner. But the 50,000 spectators were also witnessing a neighborhood beginning a comeback from decades of government planning.