8 June 2008
Tens of thousands turn out for Gay Pride in European cities
ROME (AFP) – – Tens of thousands took to the streets of Athens, Rome and Warsaw for Gay Pride parades Saturday, drawing attention to the fact that many homosexuals in Europe still do not enjoy the same rights as heterosexuals.
“We have even more reasons to be here today than in previous years,” Vladimir Luxuria — an Italian transvestite and former left-wing deputy — said in Rome, where tens of thousands took part in the parade.
Rome’s parade sparked particular contraversy this year as new mayor Gianni Alemanno in May denounced the event as “an act of sexual exhibition” and vowed to make sure the demonstration would not offend anybody.
At the national level, the political climate does not look any more promising for gay rights in Italy as new Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative coalition shares close ties with the Vatican.
“With the right in power, Gay Pride is becoming a demonstration for freedom and against authoritarianism,” said Franco Grillini, also an ex-deputy from the left and founder of the homosexual rights group Arcigay.
In Warsaw, some 2,000 people paraded through the streets, as an opinion poll showed that deeply Catholic Poland is largely hostile to homosexuality.
Police were out in force to prevent feared attacks by extreme-right groups as a procession of floats passed through the capital’s main avenues to the sound of dance music.
A poll by the CBOS institute published Saturday confirmed that homosexuals are generally viewed in Poland as being perverted, sick or at best sinners. Of the 1,116 adults questioned, 69 percent believed gays should keep silent about their sexuality.
Poland was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights after a ban on a gay pride march in Warsaw in 2005 by the then mayor, Lech Kaczynski, now the country’s president.
Kaczynski, a conservative Catholic, had likewise forbidden the parade in 2004, but the 2006 and 2007 events went ahead, despite repeated calls for a ban from conservatives and far-right Catholic groups.
In Athens however, the mood was more uplifting as some 2,000 gays and lesbians took to the streets only four days after the country’s first same-sex marriages.
One of the newlyweds, 47-year-old Evangelia Vlami, head of the Greek Union of Homosexuals and Lesbians (Olke), rode at the head of the parade that drew twice as many participants this year as in previous years.
Demonstrators wore banners with “Say yes to me”, “Yes to political marriage”.
On Tuesday, the socialist mayor of the small island of Tilos in the southeast Aegean Sea took advantage of a legal loophole and married two couples, one of women and one of men.
A judge in Rhodes, on which Tilos depends, immediately asked the mayor to annul the marriages and launched a preliminary investigation into a possible case against the elected official for breach of office.
(Photos for this article were also from AFP)
Source: Sydney Morning Herald/Reuters/DPA
8 June 2008
Gay pride march protests against government, Church
About 10,000 dancing and singing homosexuals and gay-rights supporters marched through Rome, many of them chanting slogans against the Vatican and Italy’s conservative new government.
The yearly Gay Pride march took on added political significance because city officials denied a request for the march to end with a rally near the Basilica of St John’s in Lateran, the pope’s cathedral in his capacity as bishop of Rome.
City officials said the march would disturb a concert planned for inside the basilica. The new conservative city administration also refused to give its patronage to the march.
“The denial of St John’s Square and the patronage of this demonstration were grave decisions that were steps backwards,” said Vittoria Franco, equal opportunities minister in the leftist shadow government.
The new conservative government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has made it clear it has no intention of passing legislation that would give gay couples some sort of legal recognition.
That promise had been made by the previous centre-left government of Prime Minister Romano Prodi but was blocked by opposition from the Vatican and the Italian Catholic church.
Berlusconi and the Vatican see eye-to-eye on many issues and his government’s relationship with the church is much more cordial than that of the previous government.
“Berlusconi kisses the Pope’s slipper and says ‘yes’ to everything. We risk a theocracy and clerical dictatorship,” said Franco Grillini, a homosexual who was a parliamentarian in the previous government.
Mock marriages were performed on some of the floats drawn through the city as scantily clad homosexual men danced on other floats.
Some of the demonstrators carried placards accusing conservative politicians of being “hypocritical slaves” of the Vatican. Several of the gay men were dressed in papal masks or bishops’ garb.
In Warsaw, about 2,000 people took part in an “equality parade” today to call for tolerance and more rights for homosexuals in Poland.
Most of the young, colourfully dressed participants made their way through the city in cars and on foot past the government headquarters near Lazienki Park.
Gays and lesbians danced in front of the buildings that were cordoned off with steel fencing and guarded by police.
The march proceeded without major incident although at the start, about 100 members of the radical nationalist All Polish Youth and National Radical Camp (ONR) parties tried to disrupt the event.
Police intervened to prevent a confrontation. The nationalists shouted “Shame for Poland” and “Man and woman are families” at participants.