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Gay parade draws 2.4 million
Brazilians pack street days after even bigger rally of evangelicals
Sunday, June 18, 2006 Posted: 1324 GMT (2124 HKT)
SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) -- More than 2 million gay men, lesbians and transvestites waving rainbow flags and dressed in lavish Carnival costumes paraded Saturday to celebrate gay pride and demand an end to homophobia.
The 10th annual Sao Paulo Gay Pride Parade saw go-go boys and drag queens dancing on the roofs of sound trucks blasting music as they rolled down the skyscraper-lined Avenida Paulista -- the financial heart of Brazil's biggest city.
It also turned into a cheering festival for Brazil's World Cup soccer team, with many paraders dressed in the country's yellow, green and blue. (Watch parade revelers in Brazil and Mexico -- 1:40)
Organizers boast Sao Paulo's pride parade is the largest of its kind on the planet. Police said the parade drew 2.4 million people, far more than last year's official crowd count of 1.8 million.
The theme of this year's event was to halt hate crimes against gays in the nation of more than 185 million people. But in typical Brazilian style, participants turned a somber topic into a huge street party, dancing, drinking beer and kissing as they marched several kilometers.
Some dressed as Batman. Others turned themselves into Elvis Presley, Cinderella, U.S. Marines, Marie Antoinette and the lead characters of the movie "Brokeback Mountain" about two gay cowboys.
Despite a certain measure of tolerance for gays, whose drag parades are major draws during Carnival celebrations, anti-homosexual discrimination is widespread across Brazil, said Nelson Matias Pereira, a spokesman with the Brazilian Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans-gender Pride Parade Association.
"The bottom line is we are citizens, citizens who pay taxes and contribute to the country," Pereira said.
Waving a Brazilian flag, Ulysses Nascimento danced along the street in a skintight, yellow and green T-shirt and a snug black bathing suit.
"This is to show that everyone's equal in this world, gays and lesbians as well," the 22-year-old salesman said.
"I just want to show that we're harmless," said Cao Ramos, a towering 36-year-old architect in a shimmery gold evening gown and high heels. "There are so many other things in the world that we should be worrying about instead of people's sexual preferences."
The march came two days after police said about 3 million people joined an evangelical Protestant rally on the same Sao Paulo avenue, demonstrating their growing influence in the world's largest Roman Catholic country.
The evangelicals and the Catholic church strongly oppose calls for a nationwide law permitting civil unions between same-sex couples. Currently, only Brazil's southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul allows such unions.
Paraders said they want organized religion to stop regarding gays as sinners.
"The traditional church doesn't want us," said Pastor Justino Luis, 42, who started a church serving 200 mostly gay and lesbian parishioners.
Waving a banner with the words, "I'm Happy, Gay and Christian," Luis said, "I know (God) loves me the way I am, and I know when he made me he planned for me to be the way I am."
Last Updated: Sunday, 18 June 2006, 03:21 GMT 04:21 UK
Crowds celebrate Brazil Gay Pride
A record 2.4m people are thought to have joined in the parade
More than a million people have taken to the streets of Sao Paulo to celebrate the Brazilian city's tenth annual Gay Pride parade.
Revellers dressed in costumes danced through one of the main avenues, as music blared out of huge loudspeakers.
One report quoted police as saying that 2.4 million people were at the parade, which organisers say has become the largest of its kind in the world.
Gay rights activists say discrimination is still widespread across Brazil.
Eighty-one Brazilians were killed last year because of their sexual orientation, campaigners say.
The theme for this year's event is "homophobia is a crime" to highlight proposed anti-discrimination laws.
World Cup costumes
When the parade was first staged, it attracted just 2,000 people.
Police estimate this year's festival has attracted 2.4m people, compared with the official crowd count of 1.8m last year, the Associated Press reports.
Revellers dressed up as Batman, Elvis Presley, Cinderella and Marie Antoinette. Some took their inspiration from the Oscar-winning movie Brokeback Mountain, whose lead characters are two gay cowboys.
Others also gave a nod to the football World Cup, dressing in the team colours of yellow, green and blue.
Floats made their way down the Avenida Paulista in the financial heart of Sao Paulo, as dance music blared out of huge loudspeakers.
But correspondents say that behind the revelry is a serious message.
Gay rights activists say they face many challenges in Brazil
One participant, Juliana, said the level of tolerance of homosexuality varied greatly across different parts of Brazil.
"Here I guess we are privileged, in Sao Paulo because here we can be open almost every day. But for most of the people, they can't be open every day at all."
New laws would allow civil unions between same-sex couples across Brazil, which are permitted only in the southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul.
But the Roman Catholic Church opposes gay marriage in the country, which is the world's largest Catholic nation.
Activists say they no longer want to be seen as sinners by the Church.
"The traditional church doesn't want us," said Pastor Justino Luis who started a church serving mostly gay and lesbian parishioners.
"I know [God] loves me the way I am, and I know when he made me he planned for me to be the way I am," he said.