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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 September 2005, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Stars join Cardiff gay Mardi Gras
Gina G, Charlotte Church, Noel Sullivan and Nicki French
Clockwise from top left: Gina G, Charlotte Church, Noel Sullivan and Nicki French all perform
More than 40,000 people are thought to have attended Cardiff's annual gay and lesbian Mardi Gras on Saturday.

Performers like Gina G, Charlotte Church and Noel Sullivan all took part, along with Doctor Who and Queer as Folk writer Russell T Davies.

Cardiff Council has given 10,000 to the event, and the Welsh Assembly Government has agreed to give 5,000 a year for the next three years.

The festival has grown in popularity, attracting visitors from across the UK.

Pressure group Stonewall Cymru marked the start of the festival by launching a campaign against discrimination.

The organisation was recently told that a gay couple from Porthmadog were asked to take a HIV test before being given life assurance for a mortgage.

Other examples of discrimination included the case of a lesbian refused a smear test by her doctor, and a lesbian couple desperate for help after being harrassed by neighbours.

Stonewall Cymru are asking lesbian, gay, and bisexual people - and their friends and families - to report similar instances.

Mardi Gras performers
Stage performaces draw in the crowds

The organisation said it wanted to find out how they are excluded from Welsh society by actively targeting certain services they know were failing to meet their needs.

"Everyday, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in Wales avoid public spaces and places where they feel they can't express themselves," said Stonewall Cymru director Alison Parken.

"They often don't get the services they need because they won't tell the police, their doctor, teacher, youth worker, housing provider, parent, or church leader about being lesbian or gay because they anticipate being badly treated.

"Worse, if they do inform people that they are lesbian or gay and need service delivery to take that into account, often the response is 'We don't need to know that, we treat everyone the same'."

Cardiff Council said it wa delighted that the Mardi Gras had grown into such a major event.

Councillor Nigel Howells, executive member for sport, leisure and culture, said: "It's excellent to see the Cardiff Mardi Gras going from strength to strength and once again thousands of people will be visiting our city to join the festivities in this important year for us.

"The party is all about celebrating diversity but it is also a vital part of the bigger picture to combat homophobic hate crime and make the city a safe place for everyone."

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