David Wilk and Charlie Gurion have kissed many times since they met, and many more times since they became one of the first same-sex couples in Illinois to get a marriage license.
But until Sunday, their kisses never had been cheered by thousands of people.
Standing in the back of a red Jeep Wrangler adorned with a "Just Married" sign, the couple repeated the gesture dozens of times as they made their way along the route of Chicago's 45th annual Pride Parade, the first since Illinois legalized same-sex marriage in June.
"This is just a completely different experience to hear people go so crazy for you to just kiss each other," said Gurion, 25, who married Wilk in February after a federal court ruled Cook County didn't have to wait for the law to take effect. "It was just very special."
Hundreds of thousands of people lined streets along the 4-mile procession through the Uptown, Lakeview and Lincoln Park neighborhoods, according to the Chicago Police Department. Despite the large crowd, there were only a "handful of issues" including eight event-related arrests, one of which was for criminal damage to a police vehicle, the statement said.
Dionte Rice, 19, of the 11600 block of South Church Street, was charged with felony criminal damage to property for damaging the police car, police said.
This year, the parade featured about 200 groups from schools, churches, local businesses, elected officials' offices and other organizations, said Richard Pfeiffer, the organizer of the event. There were also a handful of new organizations, such as the Shedd Aquarium, Art Institute of Chicago and religious groups that sent contingents to march for the first time.
Two or three entrants even married couples on the floats during the procession, Pfeiffer added.
"There was a lot of happiness because of the same sex marriage law," he said. "There was just a celebratory aspect of the parade this year (that was absent last year.)"
Many parade-goers said there were also a lot more parents and children, but that increased familial element didn't affect the prominence of the usual provocative costumes worn by some participants and parade-goers.
"You get a little bit of everything," Pfeiffer said. "There are a lot of different people in our community ... and the parade reflects that."
The three-hour-long parade began around noon at Broadway and Montrose Avenue with dozens of married gay and heterosexual couples, many with their children, leading the procession.
Mike and Lou Dean Rohr walked with a group of families from their daughter's school, pulling the 4-year-old in a wagon decorated with rainbow-colored leis.
It was the Chicago family's second time walking in the parade, but this year, because of the legality of same-sex marriage, the experience felt a bit different, they said.
"That is a huge thing. For marriage in our state to have the protection of our family, it's amazing," Lou Dean Rohr said. "We don't feel that different (from other families) at all. I don't think she feels that different at all."
"It makes it more visual," added Mike Dean Rohr. "I don't think people understood the civil union part of it."
Other parade participants, while not necessarily gay themselves, marched to show support for loved ones and others who are.
Pam Cameron, 49, marched in her fifth parade with Equality Illinois, holding a sign that read "I (heart) my gay son." She also expressed hope that all gay children will one day have parents who are accepting of their sexual identities.
"It's just a small part of who they are and nothing about them is different," said Cameron, of Oak Park. "Just be proud of your child for who they are."
State Rep. Greg Harris, a co-sponsor of the bill that made same-sex marriage legal in Illinois, called the day "joyous" but said the fight for equality extends beyond sexual orientation.
"There's a lot at stake here," Harris said at a pre-parade event at Crew Bar & Grill in Uptown. "We still have to fight for trans rights, women's right to choose and refugees' rights. The battle is not over."
Equality Illinois co-founder Art Johnston, who also attended the event, said that in addition to fighting for the transgender community, it's important for officials and activists to "protect the gains we've made."
"Ultimately, people have figured out that love is love," Johnston said. "We are finally getting close to full equality."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun