Tension over gay rights in Poland came to the fore on Saturday when about 2,500 people defied orders from the city’s mayor and staged a gay pride march.

The marchers, ignoring Warsaw mayor Lech Kaczynski’s ban on the event, met with opposition from right-wing spectators, who hurled insults and eggs at parade participants and at one point tried to beat them.

Two anti-gay protesters were arrested and charged with assaulting police, and 29 people were detained.

The protesters were part of a far-right youth organisation who had planned to stage what they called a Normality Parade, Radio Polonia reported.

Polish European Parliament member Wojciech Wierzejski has flagged his intention to introduce a bill banning gay and lesbian parades across Europe.

Despite the resistance, marchers, some of whom carried signs declaring Justice For All, completed the parade, during which no one was seriously injured.

Saturday’s march highlighted divisions over homosexuality in Poland, a largely Catholic country where gay and lesbian concerns traditionally have been ignored.

Warsaw mayor Kaczynski banned this year’s Warsaw pride march for a second successive year, saying he opposed any event that propagates a homosexual lifestyle, Associated Press reported.
But Polish activists said Saturday’s parade was crucial to gay and lesbian rights.

We feel especially discriminated against in Poland, and such an event is really the only occasion -¦ when we can tell people that our human rights are being violated, parade organiser Tomasz Baczkowski said.

Meanwhile, the annual Tel Aviv gay pride parade on Friday 10 June attracted fewer than the 100,000 marchers expected, according to Israeli news sources.

The parade, staged to mark 30 years of gay rights in Israel, was held under a heavy military presence, including approximately 1,000 police and security guards.

News network 365Gay.com reported almost 90,000 people attended the pride parade and a gathering at its end. The parade focused on same-sex marriage rights.

A World Pride event planned for Jerusalem in July was postponed until 2006 because of political tensions. The date clashed with Israel’s planned withdrawal from Gaza. A smaller Gay Pride event will be held in Jerusalem on Thursday 30 June.

And in West Hollywood, Paris and Kathy Hilton led the 35th annual Christopher Street West Pride Parade on Sunday, appearing in front of an estimated 300,000 people.

The Los Angeles Daily News reported the parade also featured actors Dana Delany and Rose McGowan and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The parade forms part of a three-day gay and lesbian festival in the neighbourhood.

Christopher Street West president Rodney Scott told the News there was more need than ever for gay pride marches, with the community ravaged by crystal meth abuse and the ongoing struggle for same-sex marriage rights.

You grow up in an environment where you’re told that you’re less than everybody else. Well, this weekend, you’re okay.

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