Hundreds of thousands of Paris Gay Pride marchers had reason to celebrate on Saturday after contenders for next year’s presidential election expressed support for same-sex marriage.

But elsewhere in Europe, gay and lesbian marchers met with conservative protesters at Pride events across the continent.

The marches coincided with the end of Pride Week in Sydney last weekend.

Organisers of the Paris march said as many as 800,000 people took to the streets in an overtly political parade, Agence France-Presse reported.

Many participants called for the right to marry -“ a wish that could become reality after French presidential elections next year.

Last week, Socialist party presidential contender S?l? Royal said she backed gay marriage, and she might support adoption rights for gay couples.

It is essential that everybody has equal rights and dignities and the chance to express themselves freely, Royal said, Reuters reported. Opening up marriage to same-sex couples is needed in the name of equality, visibility and respect.

Royal’s likely conservative rival, Nicolas Sarkozy, has also suggested he might end his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Sixty percent of French people support gay marriage, according to a recent poll.

In Rome, recently elected transsexual MP Vladimir Luxuria joined several thousand other Italians at a Pride march that also attracted anti-gay protesters.

Conservatives also put a damper on smaller Pride marches in Athens and Croatian capital Zagreb.

About 200 gays and lesbians accompanied by tight security marched in Zagreb’s fifth Gay Pride event, carrying posters reading long live perversion and I love whom I want, AFP reported. Their enthusiasm did not deter some jeering spectators.

Pride marches also took place in Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands last weekend.

Across the Atlantic, gay marriage was a major theme at North American Pride marches on Sunday, which marked this week’s anniversary of the landmark June 1969 Stonewall riots in New York.

Gay marriage was on tens of thousands of protesters’ minds in New York, with the state’s highest court due to rule on same-sex marriage soon.

Same-sex marriage was also on the agenda at San Francisco and Toronto Pride events on Sunday. In San Francisco some marchers held banners reading if you don’t want a gay marriage, don’t get one.

As many as 1.2 million people lined Toronto streets to watch Pride marchers, who are campaigning against a proposed Conservative Party rollback of Canada’s gay marriage law.

A Pride march in Chicago drew an estimated 500,000 people, including local teams who will participate in the Chicago Gay Games in July, reported.

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