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The BBC's David Willey in Rome
"Some gays and lesbians dressed as fake nuns"
 real 28k

Saturday, 8 July, 2000, 21:08 GMT 22:08 UK
Gay pride triumphs in Rome
Gay pride
A lesbian couple join in the festivities outside the Colosseum
Crowds of gay rights demonstrators have marched through the streets of Rome in a World Pride Week march the Vatican tried to get banned.

The organisers claimed 250,000 people joined in the march to the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus, two of Rome's most famous ancient sites.

One of the floats
Transexuals taking part in the procession

It was one of the biggest crowds to gather in Rome for decades.

The mood was jubilant as gays and their supporters from around the world joined in tooting whistles and bearing banners and signs proclaiming gay pride.

"Keep the church out of the bedroom," one sign read.

Priest power

Among them was a soberly dressed provincial priest marching in solidarity.

"I'm not the pope, but I'm here!" the Reverend Vitaliano Della Sala said.

Many families joined in the parade - the first occasion on which gay rights has been openly presented to Italians as a legitimate human-rights issue.

Activist Imma Battaglia
Imma Battaglia (rght) fought hard to have the event staged

Prominent Italian left-wing and radical politicians were there for the event which took place amid heavy police security after threats by neo-Fascists to disrupt the proceedings.

The Vatican had criticised the Italian government and the Rome city authorities for allowing the parade, because of its dogmatic opposition to a homosexual lifestyle on religious grounds.

World Pride Week has dramatically brought gay-rights issues out of the closet in Italy.

State television has, unusually, been running stories about the problems of social and religious discrimination faced by gays and lesbians and their families.

The organisers had asked those taking part not to provoke religious antagonism, given the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is celebrating its jubilee year in Rome in the year 2000.

Equal rights

The crowd was triumphant as it reached the Colosseum.

People jumped up and down and clapped their hands.

I'm not the pope, but I'm here

Reverend Vitaliano Della Sala

"The constitution has won!" shouted Italy's minister for equal rights, Katia Bellilo, who was forced by Premier Giuliano Amato to cancel her ministry's official sponsorship of World Pride.

"We are a democratic country, we are an antifascist country, we are a tolerant country," she said.

Activist Imma Battaglia, who led the battle for the parade permit, said: "No one will be able to stop us ever again, We'll continue the fight for freedom, equality and respect."

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30 May 00 | Europe
Rome divided over gay festival
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