Thousands march in Warsaw gay pride parade

Thousands of people took to the streets of Warsaw on Saturday in a huge parade to celebrate diversity and demand equal rights for gays and lesbians in Poland.

The march began at the country's highest building, the Palace of Culture and Science, where people waved rainbow flags and called for same-sex marriage and the right for gay couples to adopt children.

Before the start of the march, more than 100 prominent gay and lesbian Poles released a statement calling for those still concealing their sexuality to go public with it.

"Rights cannot be given to those who hide their faces. We ask you: Come out!" the statement said.

Among the signatories were Robert Biedron, the mayor of Slupsk who was for a long time the only openly gay politician in Poland, and Anna Grodzka, a transgender woman and former member of parliament.

Five years ago former prime minister Donald Tusk promised in his election campaign to provide a gay partnership law in Poland. But a first effort in parliament failed after an emotional debate with harsh diatribes against homosexuals.

Resistance against gay marriage is strong in the predominantly Catholic country, and public opinion surveys have frequently shown that the acceptance of gays in Poland is among the lowest in the European Union.

The Polish capital's annual parade can spark tension, with insults and objects - including eggs and firecrackers - thrown at marchers in recent years.

On Saturday, a group of right-wing extremists gathered in Warsaw's historic centre amid a heavy police presence but no violent incidents were reported.

Terry Reintke, a Green Party member who represents Germany in the European Parliament, said he travelled to Warsaw to take part in the pride march. "I am here to show that the fight for equal rights is a European battle," he said.

Last update: Sat, 11/06/2016 - 21:17
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