Hundreds of thousands of gay rights supporters – many wearing elaborate colorful costumes – marched through the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo Sunday in one of the world\’s biggest gay pride parades.
The march, considered the world\’s largest gay parade, drew tens of thousands of people from across society, including some churchgoers who joined in after attending mass and who said they backed the cause.
Some of the outfits celebrated Brazil\’s hosting of soccer\’s World Cup next month while other participants wore large wigs and danced on grand floats.
But there was a tone of seriousness under all the joy. The organizers are demanding Brazil pass laws making homophobia a crime, including discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people. They say such a law would also cut down on violence against homosexuals.
While Brazil\’s supreme court legalized gay marriage in 2011, conservative lawmakers and religious leaders opposed federal legislation granting more rights to homosexuals.
President Dilma Rousseff, who is seeking another term in October elections, gave a message of support via Twitter.
"People from around the country are in Sao Paulo today to participate in #paradalgbt," Rousseff tweeted, reminding her followers there is a hotline people can call in Brazil if they are attacked because of their sexuality.
Marchers at the event, first held in 1997, are urging the criminalization of homophobia in a country "without homo-lesbo-transphobia."
More than 300 homosexuals, tranvestites and transsexuals were killed in homophobic crimes last year, according to Grupo Gay de Bahia, an independent group.
Although the total was down 7.7 percent from 2012, the group said it still left Brazil atop the global league for homophobic homicides and urged government action.
The group estimated four in 10 such crimes worldwide occur in Brazil.