Tens of thousands took part in the 45th annual London Pride march to celebrate 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales.
In the week preceding the parade, stores and public spaces in the capital were decorated with rainbow flags and messages of support. The Houses of Parliament were also illuminated in the rainbow flag for the first time to mark London Pride.
Saturday’s parade featured around 26,000 participants, including more than 330 groups and 80 floats, parading through Regent Street while hundreds of thousands more watched on and partied into the night.
Flagbearers held up the flags of the 72 countries around the world where it is still illegal to be LGBT+.
The event, under the theme of ‘Love Happens Here’, was launched by members of the emergency services in honour of their commitment and bravery in response to the spate of recent tragic events in the city.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan told the crowd at Trafalgar Square that, “it’s really important that Londoners are free to be who they want to be, free to love who they want to love”.
He said that following the Grenfell Tower fire and recent three terror attacks, “Today it’s about love.” Khan added: “It’s showing that actually the best antidote to the sadness, the sorrow, the bereavement, is having a great Pride in London.”
In a video message, Prime Minister Theresa May, wished everyone “a wonderful day at Pride in London.” She acknowledged that many anti-gay laws around the world were based on the UK’s own past criminalisation of homosexuality.
This meant, May said, that the UK has a responsibility to “promote the rights of LGBT+ people internationally” and to challenge “governments that criminalise homosexuality or practice violence and discrimination against LGBT+ people”.
There was some booing at May’s video message, presumably a response to her party’s decision to ally itself with the homophobic Democratic Unionist Party in order to secure a majority in parliament.
Homosexuality was first legalised in England and Wales through The Sexual Offences Act of 1967, which decriminalised homosexual acts in private between men. Same-sex sexual activities were legalised in Scotland in 1980 and in Northern Ireland in 1982.
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