Tens of thousands of gay people and their supporters marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue in the always colorful celebration, which is officially called the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride March. A violent thunderstorm halfway through did not halt the parade.
There were floats, marching bands, stilt walkers, motorcycle riders and bicycle riders wearing T-shirts that said "bike-sexual."
"I think it's sensational," said Dolores Stoia, who watched from behind police barricades. "I'm not really a big fan of parades, but it's very entertaining."
Paterson, the first New York governor to march in the gay pride parade, took part even though he had surgery to remove a cataract on Saturday.
"The doctors told me I couldn't march today," he said. "I ran 8 1/2 miles Friday. I can march today. And I will."
Even though gay couples cannot legally marry in New York, Paterson said last month that the state must recognize marriages legally performed in other states and countries that allow gay marriage.
California began recognizing same-sex marriage this month, joining Massachusetts as the only U.S. states granting full marriage rights to gays.
Jim Saslow carried a bouquet to New York's march and wore a wedding gown stamped with the words, "Coming Here Soon?"
"Everyone here is thinking if California can do it then we should be able to do it here soon," he said.
Other marchers represented a dazzling array of ethnic and sexual subcultures, from gay Peruvians gyrating in Inca headdresses to butch-femme lesbians and big, hairy gay men, called bears, flaunting their paunches.
Martin Leff-Cinthus marched in a purple tunic and a curly lavender wig, a costume meant to honor Hyacinthus, who in Greek mythology was the beloved of the god Apollo.
"To dress like this is as natural as if I were walking down the street 2,500 years ago as Apollo's lover," he said.
Besides Paterson, other elected officials who marched included Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Charles Schumer.
The parade, one of dozens that take place around the world, commemorates the Stonewall riots of 1969, when patrons at a Greenwich Village gay bar fought back against a police raid.