Around half a million people gathered in London this afternoon to celebrate EuroPride.
Gay politicians, campaigners and supporters including London Mayor Ken Livingstone, actor Sir Ian McKellen, Labour MEP Michael Cashman, Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Duncan, and Outrage’s Peter Tatchell were just a few of the names leading the parade.
Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from across London and other major European cities marched from Baker Street, through Oxford Street, down Regents Street and finished with a rally in Trafalgar Square.
Despite an anti-gay protest organised by Christian Voice, the event passed peacefully.
The crowd celebrated the freedoms gained over the last year in the UK for the gay community such as civil partnerships and the Equality Act, but many pointed out that homophobia still remains in some areas in the UK and across the world.
Mr Livingstone said as the day began, “The last reservoir of homophobia is in our schools.”
He criticised the Church of England for opposing gay rights laws and the ordination of gay bishops, he said: “Not a single sentence in the Bible attributed to Jesus is against homosexuality.”
Gay campaigner Peter Tatchell joined the rally with Moscow Pride organiser Nikolai Alexeseev, brandishing a picture of The Pope dressed as a drag queen.
Gay charity Stonewall marched with placards demanding the dismissal of Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles after he recently used the word gay in a derogatory way to describe a ring tone.
A spokesman from Stonewall told PinkNews.co.uk: “Chris Moyles is not helping young LGBT people struggling to come out through his comments.”
Meanwhile onlookers cheered and blew whistles at the floats, one crowd member shouted to Mr Livingstone, “No more bendy buses, just bend us.”
Michael Cashman, Labour MEP for the West Midlands told PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s brilliant to be going down Oxford Street for the first time
“We are not only celebrating what we have achieved here but expressing solidarity with those discriminated in places such as Latvia and Poland.”
Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary, Alan Duncan told PinkNews.co.uk that the gay community must support people abroad who are not as lucky with their country’s laws.
Labour MP for Rhondda Chris Bryant, told PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s not about legislation anymore, but daily prejudice such as in schools.”
Europe’s first transgender politician, Vladimir Luxuria, an MP in the Italian Parliament, also attended the event, she said: “It’s important to represent the whole community, to give them all a voice.”
Big Brother evictee Sam told PinkNews.co.uk it’s an “amazing” day for the transgender community.
Members of the Royal Navy marched in their uniforms for the first time, a spokesman told PinkNews.co.uk: “We are proud to be members of the Royal Navy, it’s a service that accepts every kind of person.”
Religious groups were represented through the Unitarian and Metropolitan Church, Gay Muslims Unveiled, and BaGeLs, a Jewish bisexual, gay and lesbian group.
Trade Union members also attended the march along with the Civil Service Rainbow Network, and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, David Harker said: “We are proud to have a float for the first time ever in a gay pride march. Being part of EuroPride celebrates our diversity within the Citizens Advice service. We want to send the vital message to the LGBT community, their friends and families that we really are here for everyone.”
Gay groups from the fire service, universities, the Greater London Assembly, the NHS, and Shell, as well as the Gay Police Association, Terrence Higgins Trust and the Black Lesbian UK group also attended.
Representatives from the organisers of Jerusalem World Pride, AGUDAH marched at the event, a spokesman told PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s great to be here.
“We are excited to be hosting World Pride and are applying for EuroPride in 2009 for Tel Aviv.”
Mr Livingstone used the rally to speak of his admiration for political revolutionary Che Guevara, he told PinkNews.co.uk: “He would have been a leading supporter of LGBT rights and the congestion charge.”
He also thanked a delegation attending from Venezuela and applauded the country’s president, Hugo Chávez’s record on gay rights, after criticism of him being a dictator, “If I had to choose between a defender of gay rights as a president, or the one in Washington who practices bigotry and intolerance, I know who I would vote for.
Sir Ian McKellen told the crowd in Trafalgar Square: “Apparently we cannot call ourselves gay anymore because it means rubbish in the street, why don’t we find a new word, what about gorgeous?”
Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, and Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare, who had a civil partnership last week, said: “We have a lot to celebrate, we have come a long way in this country, but as the horrible murder of Jody Dobrovski shows there is still a problem in this country, young people still have problems coming out shows.
“There is still more to be done, especially at home and abroad where gays and lesbians are still suffering, they are ostracised and in some places executed.”
The rally finished with musical performances, and appearances from London’s first partnership register couple and gay sports teams.
Events also took place in Soho Square and Leicester Square.
Police estimated that 40,000 turned up to the event.
Keep checking PinkNews.co.uk for exclusive pictures of the event.