Europride expects 50,000 in Zurich

5th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

The annual gay and lesbian festival draws crowds from across Europe despite conservative criticism.

Zurich -- The European gay and lesbian parade Europride is expecting about 50,000 people for its annual festival in Switzerland’s largest city Zurich on Friday and Saturday, but reportedly without Mr Switzerland.

"It's above all a political demonstration, to defend lesbian, gay and transsexual rights. But we are not just here to demonstrate, we're also going to party," the event's spokesman Michael Rueegg told AFP.

"We're expecting at least 50,000 people, but maybe we'll have double that amount, it's hard to predict," he added.

The festival, which was held for the first time in London in 1993, takes place in a different European city every year and attracts participants from all over the continent.

The 2009 Europride coincides with the 40th anniversary of the first gay rights movements in the United States.

"We have obtained a lot in Europe, especially recognition of our rights," Rueegg said.

Zurich’s recently-elected Socialist Party mayor, Corine Mauch, who is openly lesbian, encouraged organisers to decorate the city with the homosexual movement's traditional rainbow colours for the occasion.

But the festival, in the home of the country's conservative business and economic establishment, has its critics.

The organisers of the Mr Switzerland pageant warned their current male icon, Andre Reithbuch, to stay away from the parade, the Swiss tabloid Blick reported.

The Christian social union (BCS), a lobby group, called for the defence of the "Christian family model" and is launching a poster and leaflet campaign during Europride.

A lobby group for family values condemned "manipulation by the homo lobby" on its website and criticised what it called the "psychological" problems of homosexuals.

However, the organisers feel they can maintain the party atmosphere with a message of tolerance.

"We'll have 250,000 cans of beer on ice for the event," Rueegg said, claiming that "heterosexual men would surely not like to miss that."

AFP / Expatica

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