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|Monday, June 18, 2001, updated at 10:43(GMT+8)|
Tens of Thousands March in Latin America's Biggest Gay ParadeAn estimated 180,000 people marched to booming disco beats and the flutter of rainbow flags through Sao Paulo on Sunday in Latin America's biggest gay pride parade.
Eighteen floats, with music, go-go dancers and drag queens, marched to the city center for a colorful stage show on a square that is home to many gay bars.
Organizers said they were expecting a turnout of 200,000 people, compared with 120,000 last year, and a mere 2,000 in the first gay parade in 1996. Police said about 180,000 people took part in the march, with more expected to join the party later.
Sao Paulo's left-leaning mayor, Marta Suplicy, addressed the crowds, saying she was proud of Sao Paulo's growing reputation as a gay-friendly city.
"People may be different but they have to have equal rights," said Suplicy, a psychologist and former host of a TV talk show about sex.
As the floats rolled along to the sound of the Village People's "YMCA" and the Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men," bystanders blew kisses and joined in the dancing.
"It's a big success," said Andre Fischer, a gay activist and columnist for the Folha de Sao Paulo daily. "It shows we are many, it gives the community a greater visibility and makes others less afraid of gays."
Health Ministry volunteers handed out free condoms, while people danced under a giant 50-yard long canopy in the colors of the rainbow, which has become a symbol of gay pride.
According to Fischer, Sao Paulo's gay parade is now the world's seventh-largest, after New York, San Francisco, London, Sydney, Montreal and Paris.
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