Weddings, revelry at Philly gay pride festival

Noelia Rivera (left) and Violette Carb, before their before their marriage on Independence Mall as part of the PrideDay festival in Phila. on 6/8/14.

Violette Carb and Noelia Rivera got married - for the first time - two and a half years ago.

"It wasn't legal, obviously," Carb said. But the two Philadelphia women had been together for seven years, and they wanted to commit.

At Sunday's Pride Day festival, less than a month after a federal judge struck down Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage, the 24-year-old women tied the knot again.

This time, Carb will be covered by Rivera's health insurance.

Fourteen couples - who had been together 119 years - were wed on Independence Mall during a glitter-filled parade.

"It's all well and good to speak of rights, but we all know that rights aren't really rights until they're legal rights," Court of Common Pleas Judge Ann Butchart told them. "So here we are today in great happiness, celebrating the legal right to call each other by the name of spouse."

Butchart officiated, along with Judge Daniel Anders, who later spoke of recently marrying a couple who had been together 33 years. He told them to face each other and hold hands. Then to kiss.

They later told him it was the first time they had done so in public.

The court's decision has more than legal ramifications, Anders said. "The recognition has changed relationships. It is remarkable that this has allowed them to live their lives more honestly and fully."

For Rivera and Carb, who wore her great-great-grandmother's 1906 wedding dress, it was simply "nice to feel like everybody else," Rivera said.

Tonee Purnell, 52, and Ray Robinson, 30, both of Philadelphia, have been together "nine years, four months and one day," Robinson said.

So long that they can finish each other's thoughts.

"Being together that long, we were already married . . . " Purnell began.

" . . . by heart . . . " Robinson added.

" . . . this legalizes it," Purnell finished.

When the ceremony was over, the crowd cheered, and a few of the couples were wiping away tears.

Then it was back to the parade, the rainbow boas, the tutus, the buttons: "Some people are gay. Get over it."

One small boy wore a T-shirt that read, "I love my moms."

The annual event was organized by Philly Pride Presents, a nonprofit that seeks to advance lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.

At Penns Landing, men in glitter-gold briefs, glitter-gold platform heels, and gold masks danced on stage - one of many acts leading up to the headliner, the Village People.

Rachelle and Megan Schneider, South Philadelphia residents who married in Delaware in October, stopped by one of the booths to have their photo taken and texted to them.

Business wasn't as brisk at a table promoting a new campaign by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraging gay and bisexual men to talk openly about HIV - "Start Talking. Stop HIV."

In another booth, Jade Andrews of Atlantic City and Noa Bendavid of Philadelphia were entering a free raffle.

The prize: A wedding at the Tabernacle United Church on Chestnut Street - an $800 value, said church elder Chris Purdom. He said the church had been doing ceremonies for five to 10 years, and now they'd be legal.

As the day wore on, the heat and excitement evidently took their toll.

Bev - "just Bev" - was walking through the crowd in a sequinned skirt, tomato-red wig, and a rhinestone crown that she said was a prize in a recent drag contest. But she'd taken off her red platform heels and slipped on blissfully soft - and flat! - bedroom slippers.

"I'm tired. I'm hot. I'm wearing polyester hair," she said, batting massive eyelashes. "And it's fun."

215-854-5147 @sbauers