Lawmakers from Bangor to San Francisco headed out to the Gay Pride parade this June to shake hands, kiss babies and make speeches. The annual event is being overrun by lawmakers sharing the stage with drag queens, dikes on bikes and go-go boys atop floats.

As lawmakers take up gay rights issues across the nation, their numbers – and prominence – at the rainbow colored festivals are swelling.

Sunday's New York City parade was lead by Governor David Paterson. Paterson accepted the invitation to be the parade's grand marshal hoping to celebrate passage of a gay marriage bill he's backing. Instead he walked forty blocks clutching a rainbow flag while expressing hope the legislation would still pass.

“In my dream, I was grand marshal of a parade where as I'm taking steps down Fifth Avenue, many [gay] New Yorkers can take steps down the aisles to be married, which I think is their right,” Paterson told the New York Times.

“I think that the bill should be considered,” he added.

Maine State Senator Dennis Damon lived Paterson's dream last Saturday while serving as master of ceremonies for Portland's Gay Pride parade after Maine lawmakers surprisingly approved his gay marriage bill this spring.

“It isn't just the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community,” Damon said, “it's our community as a whole. And that's what I hope that Maine will look onto, will grab onto and continue to move forward with.”

On Monday, New York Representative Jerrold Nadler will join gay activists outside the Stonewall Inn, where forty years ago patrons revolted against an aggressive New York City police department. For five days, thousands joined in protesting against police who often raided gay bars. The Stonewall uprising is considered the birth of the modern gay rights movement.

The event will highlight the frustrations of the gay community at President Obama's unwillingness to approach gay rights issues, including his campaign promises to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, and “don't ask, don't tell,” the law that prescribes discharge for gay service members who do not remain closeted or celibate.

Among the half-million smiling faces at Chicago's brash celebration Sunday were Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, U.S. Senator Roland Burris and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Illinois Representative Mike Quigley said “It's a beautiful day and a beautiful time for equality” while celebrating his 27th Chicago Gay Pride parade.

Earlier in the month, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine called gay marriage a “fundamental right” and promised to back a gay marriage bill in his second term at an Asbury Park Gay Pride appearance. The governor posted footage of himself speaking in front of a giant gay flag at the event on his Facebook re-election campaign website.

“This is fundamental,” he said. “It is about what we are about as a country. What we're about as a people. Human rights, civil rights, are absolutely key. In God's eyes we're all one people, and we need to recognize that and behave that way.”

Corzine signed a civil unions bill in 2006, calling it a “proud” moment, but made it clear that he believed marriage was reserved for heterosexual couples. While Corzine has indicated before he was altering course on gay marriage, the Gay Pride announcement still took many by surprise.

President Obama, who declared June Gay Pride Month, will bring the parade to the White House. The president is expected to address a gathering of gay rights leaders Monday at an East Room reception that commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots. (But administration officials have already said not to expect the president to announce any new efforts on gay rights.)

About ten years ago, gay activists grumbled about the commercialization of Gay Pride, the sense back then was that the parade had lost its political edge. Then lawmakers decided to join the party, altering the dynamics once again.

Back in Chicago, a reveler summed up the changes. “Twenty years ago, this was a very solitary event,” David Sinski told the Chicago Tribune. “You'd come along with like-minded people. But now there are so many straight people, politicians, corporations, youth groups. Now there so many things that aren't questioned. It's much more of a celebration.”