(CBS/AP)-- Only days after the Supreme Court used her lawsuit to grant same-sex couples federal marriage benefits, Edith Windsor helped lead New York City's Gay Pride march on Sunday.
Signs along the route read, "Thank you, Edie" — celebrating Windsor for her successful challenge of a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
"If somebody had told me 15 years ago that I would be the marshal of New York City's gay pride parade in 2013, at the age of 84, I wouldn't have believed it," she said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined hundreds of bikers whose motorcycles roared to life at noon to kick off the celebration, a colorful cavalcade of activists and others who marched down Fifth Avenue 44 years after the city's first pride march.
"We're Dykes on Bikes," announced Marcia Jackson, of Burbank, Calif., a member of the lesbian motorcycle club who clutched the waist of Tyrone White on their motorcycle. Jackson grinned as she explained White's connection to the sisterhood — he's undergoing a sex-change procedure.
Longtime LGBT activist Cathy Renna said Windsor's suit and the Supreme Court's favorable ruling in a challenge to Proposition 8, the California gay marriage ban, made this year's celebration special.
"It is an especially thrilling year to march this year," she said. "I have seen more real progress in the past three years than the nearly two decades of activism before it."
But, she added, "we must remain vigilant; hate crimes, discrimination and family rejection loom in our lives still."
A spate of recent hate crimes in New York provide a stark reminder of work left to be done. In one case last month, police said a gunman used homophobic slurs before firing a fatal shot into a man's face on a Manhattan street alive with a weekend midnight crowd. The city's police commissioner called it an anti-gay hate crime.
A. Carlos Cardinas, a native of Colombia who lives in Queens, is a transvestite who dressed up in festive attire for the day: a green sequined top with a salmon-colored flower ringing the waist.
"We are so happy to live free in America," said Cardinas, a hairdresser who is engaged to be married to his boyfriend.
Carl Siciliano, who heads the Ali Forney drop-in center for homeless gay youth in Harlem, said he's happy about the court decision. But he said the humanitarian fight is not over.
"Now that our adults have won this wonderful victory, it is time for us to begin to build a safety net for the more than 200,000 homeless LGBT youth who are stranded on America's streets without shelter," said Siciliano.
Windsor said she long enjoyed the parade with her late wife, Thea Spyer, whom she married in Canada as Spyer was dying in 2007.
In 2009, she suffered a heart attack a month after Spyer's death. While recovering, Windsor faced a hefty bill for inheritance taxes — more than $363,000, because Spyer was, legally, just a friend.
On Sunday, Windsor was one of three grand marshals, joining musician and activist Harry Belafonte and Earl Fowlkes, head of the Center for Black Equity.
"I have marched in the parade for the last several years carrying a huge rainbow flag," she said. "Last year, I was so elated that I danced my way down the whole street, for the entire route of the parade."
Below is a roundup of other gay pride events:
CHICAGO The state representative who sponsored Illinois' failed gay marriage bill marched in Chicago's Pride Parade.
State Rep. Greg Harris wore a T-shirt on Sunday that read "I'm a Yes for Marriage Equality." He and other lawmakers were criticized for not bringing the measure for an Illinois House vote last month after it passed the Illinois Senate on Valentine's Day. But none of that tension was visible during the parade.
Harris walked the route, waved to enthusiastic crowds and received cheers.
Harris says that Illinois is "in a truely second-class status" until lawmakers make gay marriage legal. He promised to bring back the issue in the fall.
Illinois allowed civil unions in 2011.
SEATTLE The two women who were the first same-sex couple to be granted a marriage license in Washington State are grand marshals in the annual Seattle Pride Parade.
West Seattle couple Jane Abbot Lighty and Pete-e Petersen also stood on the Space Needle on Sunday morning to raise a giant marriage equality flag above the Seattle icon. The flag featuring a red equal sign is making its first appearance atop the Space Needle.
In another first, the Seattle Mariners are flying the rainbow flag during their game Sunday against the Chicago Cubs.
A group called Seattle Out & Proud says the Mariners will be the first Major League Baseball team to publicly fly the gay pride flag. But Mariners spokeswoman Rebecca Hale says she cannot confirm that Seattle is first.
Seattle's gay pride parade began downtown on late Sunday morning and concludes at Seattle Center with a pride festival until early evening.
SAN ANTONIO Organizers of San Antonio's gay pride festival say they had record attendance this weekend, on the heels of two Supreme Court rulings celebrated by gay-rights advocates.
About 5,000 people attended the Pride Bigger Than Texas festival Saturday, with another 15,000 people estimated to have watched a race with men who wore high heels before a parade.
An organizer for the advocacy group Get Equal TX tells the San Antonio Express-News that the recent Supreme Court rulings have added "some energy in the air."
The court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, and effectively allowed same-sex marriages in California to continue.