Gathering of gay activists kicks off in Denmark

COPENHAGEN (AP) - Music and aerial acrobats on Saturday kicked off the second celebration of the World Outgames - nine days of sports, cultural and human rights events for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Some of the 5,500 participants from about 100 countries marched in a parade of nations on Copenhagen's City Hall Square. Artists, suspended in wires above them, performed acrobatics to deafening music and a frenzied light show.

Danish organizer Uffe Elbaek said the event is "a signal to the rest of the world that it should maintain focus on the right to love whomsoever one wishes, irrespective of gender and sexuality."

"My hope is that the Outgames will help putting GLBT higher up on the agendas of the European Union and the United Nations," Elbaek said, referring to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. "In some countries, love between two people is criminalized.''

The participants - one-third of them women - came mainly from Europe, North America and Australia. Some 250 people from Africa, Asia, South America, Russia and eastern Europe also will attend.

Twenty years ago Denmark became the first country in the world to allow same-sex civil unions, or registered partnerships.

This year's outgames fall 40 years after the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York, considered the birth of the gay rights movement.

"These are pure coincidences but coincidences we are using to tell the world about our rights," Elbaek said.

The 34 athletic events, including football, swimming, basketball, rowing, bridge and country 'n western dancing, will take place all over the Danish capital. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities from cities in Belgium, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Israel and Denmark will stage acts by artists and performers.

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