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Some 80-thousand people have joined in the 25th annual Gay Pride Parade in London.
The British capital came to a virtual standstill as the country’s gay and lesbian supporters marched through the centre of the city.
The march was the start of a day-long celebration – some 250-thousand people are expected to attend a concert for gay rights later on Saturday.
Whistles were blowing and high heels were pulled out of the closet for London’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride March and Festival Saturday.
The 25th annual march began at London’s Hyde Park and will end on Saturday evening on Clapham Common in south London.
Pride has been an annual event since 1971 when a small group of activists marched to call for homosexual rights.
In the quarter century since then, it has grown into one of the biggest – and most colourful – gay rights events in Britain.
But the parade and festival aren’t all just fun and games.
One of the marchers was 19-year-old Euan Sutherland – he’s taking the British government to the European Court for discrimination.
The age of consent for gays in Britain is 18 while the heterosexual age of consent is 16.
“People have fun whilst actually proving a serious point that there are hundreds of thousands of people in this country who’re being discriminated against and who deserve their rights. This is the best way to show it.”
SUPER CAPTION: Euan Sutherland, Gay Activist
Pride is also a chance to show off not only some new outfits – but some athletic solidarity.
Gary Fellowes is a member of the Kings Cross Steelers – Britain’s first gay rugby team.
“If you have a gay rugby team you can be what you are – you don’t have to worry about it and you know – we’ve had pretty good acceptance so far anyway – with straight teams. And it’s what we have in common at the end of the day. It’s just like being London/Scottish, London/Welsh, what we have in common happens to be our sexuality.”
SUPERCAPTION: Gary Fellowes – member of the Kings Cross Steelers Rugby club – Britain’s First Gay Rugby team
The Pride Trust, which organises the event, says there is a serious message behind the march – it aims to raise the profile of the gay community and increase awareness of Aids.
The Trust has been getting support not just from Britons.
Many of the marchers had come from abroad to lend their support to Britain’s gays and lesbians.
“We are here for the solidarity with the English gay men and women because there are a lot of laws (which) are against queers and lesbians so in Holland we have good laws now but we have to be now solidarity (united) with other people in other countries where it is less, like here.
SUPER CAPTION: Bob Schijndel, Dutch Gay Rights supporter
As the hundreds of marchers made their way to the concert – some stopped off for a refreshing beverage while others just sat back and watched the fun.
One Brazilian woman from Santo Antonio de Jardin said there was no comparable march for gay people in her country.
We don’t have anything like this in Brazil, just the carnival, but it’s not as serious like this here.
SUPER CAPTION: Luciana Ginezi, Brazilian Tourist
After the march, the thousands of marchers will recognise a minute’s silence as a mark of respect for those who have died or are living with AIDS or HIV.
It will be followed by a release of 26-thousand balloons – representing the total number of people who have been diagnosed with HIV in Britain.
The Pride events will culminate on south London’s Clapham Common.
Up to 250-thousand people are expected to gather there for a free music festival which has been billed as the largest of its kind in the world.
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