Gays, lesbians show pride in European capitals
An estimated one million people thronged the streets of London on Saturday for the annual Pride celebrations celebrating lesbian and gay culture, with events also held in other European capitals.
In London, the parade snaked through the city to the throbbing beat of techno music and in balmy mid-summer temperatures, with many participants in drag or brightly coloured costumes.
The event celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Gay Liberation Front, a pressure group which organised London's first Pride parade.
A street party was held in Soho, the central district which is the focal point of London's gay community.
Equality minister Lynne Featherstone attended the event. Earlier this week she said the government was considering allowing same-sex couples to include a religious element in civil partnership ceremonies.
In Vienna, organisers said some 100,000 people took part in a Gay Pride march with the theme of the family. Homosexuals in Austria are demanding the same rights in family law as heterosexual couples.
Participants paraded around the city to the Schwarzenbergplatz square in the Austrian capital where a concert was held.
In Madrid, tens of thousands of gays, lesbians and supporters joined a colourful parade of more than 30 floats -- including one devoted to superheroes -- with "transsexual equality" as this year's theme.
"This is a day to celebrate for all those people, whatever their sexual orientation, who want to live in a more free, more tolerant and fairer country," Equality Minister Bibiana Aido told journalists.
In the wake of last month's banning of an Israeli float, sponsored by the municipality of Tel Aviv, parade organisers invited an Israeli female-to-male transsexual and a Palestinian lesbian to participate as "guests of honour."
In a statement, they said the invitation was a response to accusations of "anti-Semitism" from Israel and the mayor of Madrid over the rejection of the Tel Aviv float -- itself a response to a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla.
Spain became only the third member of European Union, after the Netherlands and Belgium, to allow same-sex marriages in July 2005 with a law that also legalized adoptions by gays and lesbians.
In Rome, several thousand marched and called for equal rights for homosexuals, with some participants noting that displays of public affection from gays and lesbians are still frowned upon in Italy.
"In Rome, several people have been attacked because they were kissing in public," said the president of the Arcigay Rome group, Fabrizio Marrazzo.
In Finland, Helsinki police said they arrested three young men for launching a pepper spray attack at the Finnish capital's Gay Pride parade, which drew about 2,500 people.
© 2010 AFP