Millions stage gay parade in Sao Paulo

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - An estimated 3 million gays, lesbians and transvestites paraded down the main avenue of Brazil’s business capital Sao Paulo on Sunday, showing their pride in a blaze of color and festive music, organizers said.

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“We want people to address machismo, racism and homophobia ... which still exists in Brazil,” Nelson Matias Pereira, president of the parade told the official news agency Agencia Brasil, adding that many families took part.

The Sao Paulo Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transvestites (GLBT) Parade Association said balmy temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) helped draw more than last year’s 2.5 million marchers and that the turnout would be a world record.

A police estimate was unavailable, but nearly 900 officers were on duty to help maintain order.

On a five-day visit to Brazil, the world’s most populous Catholic country, Pope Benedict attracted less than 1 million to listen to his calls to reinforce traditional family values.

During Sunday’s parade, bands played on 23 “trios eletricos,” or huge trucks, with their music blasted from massive loudspeakers.

For their 11th parade, the gays received official backing for the first time.

Brazil’s ministers for Tourism and Sport, Marta Suplicy and Orlando Silva, attended the parade. The governor of Sao Paulo state, Jose Serra, and city mayor Gilberto Kassab were also there.

Sponsors included Brazil’s state energy company Petrobras and the state-owned Caixa Economica Federal bank.

The parade is seen as a major cash cow, attracting large numbers of Brazilian and foreign visitors, who boost the receipts of hotels, restaurants and shops.

A study this year by consumer research consultants Insearch found that Brazilian gays were above-average wage earners and spent 40 percent more on leisure than heterosexuals.