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Gay pride world wide amid gains in US, Canada

June 29, 2003

Bolivia Gay Pride (Photo: AFP SAN FRANCISCO - Days after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws against sodomy, gay pride parades around the United States offered gays and lesbians a chance to celebrate a historic victory they hope marks a new era of equality and respect.

In Canada, newly married homosexual couples were to celebrate the global Gay Pride Week in a huge parade on Sunday in Toronto, which has become North America's new gay capital since a ruling by an Ontario appeals court last week effectively made same-sex marriage legal.

In India, where homosexuality is a crime, dozens of people marked in a Calcutta parade Sunday to assert their right to an "alternative sexuality."

At least 35 men, many sporting earrings and bright lipstick, walked in silence in the eastern city holding rainbow flags.

"We are demanding rights for those who believe in alternative sexuality," said Rafiq-ul Haque Dowjah of Integration Society, which organized the event.

In the United States, parades in San Francisco and New York were expected to draw massive, joyful crowds.

In recent years the events have sometimes been as much about partying as politics, but organizers said the Supreme Court ruling added a special feeling to this year's marches.

"We have a lot to celebrate at this year's Pride," said Molly McKay, a spokeswoman for the group Marriage Equality California.

"It's a coming of age." Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas law banning sodomy and issued a sweeping opinion that seemed to stake out new ground for gay rights campaigns.

Laws against gay sex can lead to "discrimination both in the public and the private spheres," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Gays and lesbians, he said, are "entitled to respect for their private lives."

Both supporters and critics of the decision were quick to suggest it could lead to other legal advances for gays and lesbians - including the right to gay marriage.

After the Ontario court's ruling, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said last week he would file a bill to permit same-sex marriages, a change that would make Canada only the third country, after the Netherlands and Belgium, where homosexual couples can legally wed.

Dozens of homosexual couples have obtained marriage licenses in Toronto since the court ruling.

Parades were also held in major cities on Saturday, including Berlin and Madrid.

- Sapa-AP 

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