A POTENTIAL landmark moment for gay rights was celebrated by hundreds of people on a parade through Oxford.
More than 300 people took part in the 11th annual Oxford Pride march, celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender culture and rights with Parliament continuing to debate legalising gay marriage.
Dressed in rainbow colours, waving flags and led by a brass band, the Pride supporters marched from Ship Street in the city centre through Oxford Castle and down to Oxpens Meadow on Saturday where the party continued, with a estimated 3,000 supporters throughout the day.
At the head of the march was prominent gay rights campaigner and one-time Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East Peter Tatchell.
Mr Tatchell said: “We are marching at a time when parliament is on the verge of legalising same-sex marriage and we are here to celebrate this historic step.
“That was the last major legal discrimination in this country.”
He added: “Oxford has been a pioneering city for LGBT people and others.
“Long before most cities, Oxford was committed to equal opportunities and non-discrimination.”
The bill to legalise gay marriage was passed by the House of Commons and is now being scrutinised by the House of Lords.
Also on the march were representatives from workers’ union UNITE.
Sam Webster-Moore, 43, who works for BMW in Oxford, has attended Oxford Pride for 10 years.
She said: “Everyone at BMW is completely equal.
“We are here to celebrate our communities, and show others that they deserve equality as well."”
The march was held in the wake of a suspected homophobic attack in Oxford.
In the early hours of Tuesday a 29-year-old man was kicked, punched and verbally abused by two others, in an attack police said was homophobic. Speaking at Oxpens Meadow on Saturday, Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “We can never be complacent about these things. There are always a few people around with very bigoted views but I would say East Oxford is one of the most friendly, tolerant, inclusive places in the country.”
He said he was impressed with the range of organisations taking part in this year’s event.
At the meadow off Oxpens Road, groups from the Army and Thames Valley Police to sexual health clinics and the Oxfordshire registration service held stalls in the afternoon.
Deputy superintendant registrar for Oxfordshire Jonathan Nash is in a civil partnership.
He said: “If gay marriage is passed into law, I will be able to transfer my civil partnership into a marriage.
“But I don’t want civil partnerships to be seen as second best.”
At the moment there are 96 venues conducting civil partnerships in Oxfordshire, and about 50 gay and 50 lesbian couples in the county tie the civil knot each year, Mr Nash added.
But Church of England street evangelist Maurice Smithson preached on Cornmarket Street on Saturday.
He said: “I personally don’t agree with homosexuality.
“The Bible tells me homosexuality is wrong, but some of the things I do are wrong as well – Jesus tells me I must forgive them.”