Thousands Attend Gay Pride Parade in Rome

Posted June 11th, 2011 at 7:20 pm (UTC-5)
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Hundreds of thousands of people paraded through Italy's capital Saturday celebrating the annual European gay pride festival, with many participants urging Italy's government to put forth legislation recognizing gay rights.

Police estimate that at least 300,000 people, with many carrying slogans calling for an end to discrimination, participated in the Europride event.

The colorful parade closed this year with a performance by Lady Gaga, who sang her hit single “Born This Way,” at Rome's ancient Circus Maximus, and singled out Poland, Russia, Lithuania and countries in the Middle East for restricting same-sex freedoms. Donning a Versace dress and a green wig, she told the crowd “We're all from the same DNA. We're just born this way.”

Gay rights festivals were held in several European cities. While most were peaceful, one parade in Croatia turned violent when stone-throwing opponents attacked about 200 people in the coastal town of Split. At least 100 people were detained and many were injured.

The violence comes one day after the country was given approval to join the European Union. Croatia has pledged to protect human rights as part of efforts at EU membership.

The Europride parade is held every year in a different European city. Having Italy as the host of this year's parade is especially significant, as it is one of the few European countries with no specific laws for gay civil unions or against homophobic violence.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is on trial in Milan for a sex scandal involving a 17-year-old prostitute, sparked outrage from gay rights groups last year when he commented that it was, as he put it, “better to be passionate about a beautiful girl than a gay.” Mr. Berlusconi later said he had just been joking and had not meant to offend anyone.