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Saturday, 1 July, 2000, 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK
Livingstone pledges gay 'marriage'
Livingstone and Minogue
The mayor is welcomed on stage by Kylie Minogue
London Mayor Ken Livingstone has pledged to bring in "marriage" ceremonies for gay men and lesbians in a speech to thousands gathered at Mardi Gras 2000.

The annual London gay pride festival heard Mr Livingstone say he hoped to set up a civil ceremony and a register for single sex couples.

I want a civil ceremony where gay couples can demonstrate their commitment

Ken Livingstone
Mr Livingstone's support for gay weddings and his pledge to use the mayor's 3.5bn budget to try to end anti-gay discrimination caused controversy during the mayoral election campaign.

He told the thousands gathered in Finsbury Park, north London: "As mayor, I want to make certain this city is free from homophobia.

"We are going to talk to lesbian and gay people about a civil register of gay couples.

"It would not have the force of law but we value all loving relationships as equal. I want a civil ceremony where gay couples can demonstrate their commitment.
The Mardi Gras procession
Mardi Gras encourages flamboyant celebration
"What happened in the election was that one of the main attacks on me was for my support of the register. The people stuck by me.

"Slowly the world will change and hopefully it's moving in the right direction."

It is thought by some that the new Human Rights Act, coming into force in October, may force clergy to perform gay marriages.

During this year's festival - attended by an estimated 57,000 people - gay couples have been able to have their relationships blessed by the Reverend Neil Thomas and clergy from Bournemouth's Metropolitan Community Church.

After appearing on stage with Australian pop star Kylie Minogue, Mr Livingstone gave his support to the Mardi Gras festival and said he would back its growth in coming years.

Police recruiting at festival

"Everywhere in the world great cities have events like this. The Mardi Gras in Sydney is probably the biggest tourist attraction on the planet," he said.

"This one is small in comparison. But I want to talk to the organisers about building it up and perhaps in three or four years people will be flying in from around the world."

The seven-hour Mardi Gras 2000 followed the earlier Pride March and Parade.

A member of the Metropolitan Police's Positive Action Team was on the force's recruitment stall at the festival.

He said: "We are looking for a police force that represents the diversity of London.

"We are targeting under-represented groups, like women, ethnic minorities, and gays and lesbians.

"We have got a long way to go but we have got to make people understand that we are sincere about what we are going for."

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See also:

04 Apr 00 | London Mayor
Livingstone promises 'gay marriages'
01 Jul 00 | Entertainment
London comes out for Mardi Gras
26 Jun 00 | World
In pictures: Gay parades
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