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London Celebrates Pride; Cohen Endorses Marriage

London Celebrates Pride; Cohen Endorses Marriage

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A diverse crowd of more than a million gathered Saturday for London's annual gay pride parade, which featured costumed revelers, political protesters, and popular straight ally Ben Cohen, who endorsed marriage equality in a pre-parade interview.

A diverse crowd of more than a million gathered for London's annual gay pride parade Saturday.

Kath Gillespie Sells, an activist for the disabled, led the parade as grand marshal in a white Corvette, the Independent newspaper reports. Participants, the paper notes, included government employees "dressed as anything from a bright red lobster to the Lion King"; GLUG -- the Gay, Lesbian Under Water Group -- wearing Speedos and underwater masks; and popular straight ally Ben Cohen, a retired rugby player who is now campaigning against homophobic bullying.

Cohen also supports for full marriage rights for U.K. gay couples, who can currently form civil partnerships. Speaking to the Pink Paper before the parade, he noted New York State's recent approval of marriage equality. "What's happened in New York is very good," he said. "They campaigned against it very hard and it got passed and it's going to do wonders.

"It's nice to be in love with someone, and of course you want to have that extra bond of being married and not perceived to be different," continued Cohen, who is married with two children. "And that because you're gay you can't experience being married is wrong. For me being married is very important."

He said he was looking forward to his first pride celebration. "Everyone has made me feel very welcome and I am delighted to be part of today's event," he told the Pink Paper.

Overall, the mood at the event was festive, the Independent relates, although there were some political notes. LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell carried a sign in the parade lampooning Nick Griffin, the leader of the ultraconservative British National Party, and at the post-parade rally he criticized politicians who failed to attend, including London mayor Boris Johnson.

"Then it was time to celebrate: families, gay couples, straight couples and groups of people old and young danced to live music," the Independent reports. "There was little dancing at the first Gay Pride march in 1972, when gay and lesbian pioneers marched in an act of public solidarity and defiance. What started as a battle for equal rights has been almost overtaken by a celebration of the right to party."

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