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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 June, 2003, 22:27 GMT 23:27 UK
Berlin gays come out en masse

By Tristana Moore
BBC correspondent in Berlin

In the blazing afternoon sun, around half a million people gathered along the Kurfuerstendamm in Berlin on Saturday to mark the 25th anniversary of Christopher Street Day, Berlin's Gay Pride.

The streets were packed as dozens of floats wove their way towards Potsdamer Square, in the former East Berlin.

Transvestites in front of Brandenburg Gate
Berlin gays combined fun with a political message
The Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, who is openly gay, was there at the start of the march, clutching a red rose.

When he was elected two years ago, he said, "I am gay, and that's a good thing".

I asked him what it meant to be gay in the city.

"We have a tolerant atmosphere here in Berlin," Klaus Wowereit said.

"You can be a lesbian, gay, bisexual, whatever - it doesn't matter. We are very open. But there is still some discrimination in the city. And you have to fight every day."

Diverse scene

There were drag queens, lesbians on stilts, gay men dressed up as sailor boys - a bit of everything.

Berlin is home to one of Europe's largest gay communities - and it is diverse, as the Christopher Street Day Parade shows.

As well as the bands which were playing out pumping techno music, there was samba, rock n' roll and even some classical music.

Hundreds of people lined the streets as the floats passed by - some families came along with a picnic and bottles of champagne to enjoy the day.

Political point

One woman I spoke to came to the parade with her partner.

We're ahead of cities in southern Europe perhaps, but we still have to catch up with Amsterdam
Philipp Braun, German Lesbian and Gay Federation

She told me that while the image was of everyone having fun and enjoying themselves, gays and lesbians were also making a political statement today.

"It's not just about fun - although that's also important," she said.

"Gays face discrimination in the workplace, even here in Berlin."

Gay rights campaigners claim that while Berlin has a reputation as a gay capital, it is still lagging behind other cities.

"We have a domestic partnership law in Germany, which allows people to bring their gay partners here. So we're ahead of cities in southern Europe perhaps, but we still have to catch up with Amsterdam!", said Philipp Braun, from Germany's Lesbian and Gay Federation.

Pitching for games

Since the 1920s, and even going back to the 19th Century, Berlin has had a vibrant gay scene.

There is no shortage of gay bars, cafes and shops.

Schoeneberg is the heart of the city's gay life, but across the capital, you often see two women or men holding hands.

It is not a big deal. The mayor of Berlin wants more than that, though - he is now planning a bid for the 2010 Gay Games.

The BBC's Tristana Moore
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