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Hundreds of Thousands Attend Madrid Gay Pride Parade

Hundreds of thousands of gays, lesbians and their supporters from Europe marched in Madrid Saturday under sunny skies in a colourful parade, as London and Paris also held their annual marches against discrimination.

Europride 2007 kicked off at 1600 GMT in the Spanish capital capping a week of events during which organisers expected a total of 2.5 million people, including 200,000 from abroad.

Forty-five floats -- double the number of last year and some of them from faraway places such as Manchester, Marseille, Stockholm and Zurich -- took part in the march through central Madrid under the slogan "Now Europe. Equality is possible."

The march ended in central Madrid, where a mega-concert was scheduled for later in the evening.

Culture Minister Carmen Calvo told participants that Spain, which legalised gay marriage in 2005 and gave gays and lesbians the right to adopt children, was a torchbearer on the continent.

"We are very proud to receive the rest of Europe," Calvo said. "Today Spain is an example of advanced democracy.

"We must fight homophobia and reactionary attitudes," she added.

Meanwhile, in Paris organisers said about 700,000 people turned out for the city's annual Gay Pride, with participants marching behind a banner reading "We will not compromise on equality."

The throng was made up of young people, couples and families as well as transvestites and drag queens, dancing to deafening music from the floats under the shadow of rainbow flags.

But amid the fun was a serious message -- to put pressure on the new French government over its opposition to gay marriage.

The spokesman for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual Association, Alain Perou, said the Paris march -- attended by political figures from across the spectrum -- was not against the government, but intended to be "constructive."

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