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Gays, lesbians celebrate pride around U.S., world

San Francisco June 29, 1997
Web posted at: 11:16 p.m. EDT (0316 GMT)

(CNN) -- Gay men and lesbians and their supporters rallied by the hundreds of thousands Sunday during gay pride celebrations held in cities as large as San Francisco and Paris and as small as Halifax, Canada.

In San Francisco, a crowd estimated by organizers to be as large as 500,000 took part in the 27th annual parade, as sightseers stood six deep on the sidewalks. The pride parade is one of the city's largest annual civic gatherings, along with the Chinese New Year celebration.

"I have more fun in this parade than I do in any of the others," said San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, one of several local politicians taking part.

Gay pride parades
video icon 1.7 MB/41 sec. QuickTime movie

The theme of the parade was "one community, many faces." People in conventional dress marched behind a contingent of female motorcyclists and people in a wide variety of costume. The grand marshals included a Chinese gay activist and a gay Christian minister.

"We truly are every age, every race, every religious background, every economic and educational background," said parade spokeswoman Denise Ratliff. "We're everyone's brother and son and sister and daughter."

Atlanta marchers wear Mickey Mouse ears


In Atlanta, where a bomb exploded in a gay bar in February, a heightened security presence was visible for a parade through the city Sunday. The owners of the bar, where one person was injured in the explosion, were honored as the grand marshals for the event.

Many of the marchers in Atlanta wore Mickey Mouse ears -- a reference to the recent decision by Southern Baptists to officially boycott Disney for its initiatives toward gay and lesbian employees and customers.

In New York City's parade, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani received a somewhat frosty reception, due to his announced opposition to legalizing gay marriage. Some spectators whistles and booed the mayor, who strolled with supporters hoisting "Rudy Mayor" signs. Giuliani smiled at his critics and picked up the pace.

But many along the parade route weren't there for the politicians. Frances Goldin, 73, held up a sign reading, "I adore my lesbian daughters, keep them safe."

"Difference enriches us all," Goldin said.

New York

Paris rally stretches five miles

Gay pride events commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in June 1969, during which patrons of a gay bar battled police in New York City. The incident is considered to be the beginning of the modern gay rights movement.

The worldwide reach of that movement was on display Sunday as about 200,000 people turned out in Paris. At one point, the parade -- France's largest-even gay rights rally -- stretched for five miles.

Rallies were also held in Berlin, Toronto and Mexico City, where marchers chanted, "No political freedom without sexual freedom."

In Halifax, a carnival-like parade drew 500 people, as small groups of tourists and locals marched along the parade route.

Kickoff for HIV prevention campaign

In New York, Sunday's march was used as a kickoff for an HIV-prevention program called "Beyond 2000." The program seeks to recruit 2,000 volunteers to help healthy people "stay free of HIV as we enter the 21st century."

In an illustration of the impact of HIV and AIDS on the gay community, a group of marchers in San Francisco held up banners showing how the number of panels in the AIDS Memorial Quilt -- in which each panel represents a person who has died of the disease -- has increased over the years of the epidemic.

In 1987, there were 1,930 panels; in 1996, 42,140. "And the quilt still grows," read the banner that followed.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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