WATCH: Lady Gaga does Rome

Calling herself a ‘child of diversity,’ she denounces discrimination at Europride

FRANCES D’EMILIO  |  Associated Press

ROME — Lady Gaga sang a few bars of her smash hit “Born This Way” and demanded the end of discrimination against gays as she proclaimed herself a “child of diversity” at a gay pride rally Saturday night in the ancient Circus Maximus.

The star, whose Born This Way album recently topped 1 million sales in a week, delighted tens of thousands of people at a brief concert in the vast field where the ancient Roman masses would gather for spectacles.

Wearing a green wig, she played the piano and sang a few numbers. But she devoted much of her appearance after an annual European gay pride parade to denounce intolerance and discrimination against gays and transgender people. Among the places she cited was the Middle East, Poland, Russia and Lithuania.

Lady Gaga told the crowd she is often asked “How gay are you, Lady Gaga?”

“My answer is: ‘I am a child of diversity.”’

She also proudly cited her Italian roots — saying she was really named Stefania Giovanna Angelina Germanotta.

And she told fans her costume — a sleek black top with one bare shoulder and billowing plaid skirt — were from the last collection of Gianni Versace.

Decrying intolerance of homosexuality, Lady Gaga lamented that young people who are gay are susceptible to “suicide, self-loathing, isolation.”

Many in the crowd had participated in an hours-long parade of colorful floats and brightly costumed marchers through Rome’s historic center before the rally. The events were part of the annual Europride day to encourage gay rights on the continent.

Lady Gaga praised her audience for its “great courage” which she says inspires her.

Europride organizers hope the event will draw attention to discrimination gays face in many parts of the world. The U.S. ambassador was among those who invited Lady Gaga to Rome.

“I am so honored to be here,” Lady Gaga said, recalling how, earlier in the day, she lay naked in silk sheets in her hotel room and enjoyed the din of adoring fans and packs of photographers in the street below.

Organizers said Rome was a significant choice of venue, since it is home to the Vatican, which staunchly opposes legislation that would recognize same-sex marriage or adoption by gay couples.

Others hoped the turnout would send a message to Premier Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian leader dogged by a sex scandal involving an alleged 17-year-old Moroccan prostitute. The billionaire media mogul triggered outrage from gay rights groups last fall when he contended during a public appearance that it was “better to be passionate about a beautiful girl than a gay.”

Berlusconi’s equal opportunity minister, a woman, defended the premier, saying he had just been joking and had no intention of offending gays. A government undersecretary further provoked protests when she said she was sure “all Italian parents hope to have heterosexual children.”

The premier, who is on trial in Milan for allegedly paying the teenager for sex and then using his office to try to cover it up, has denied any wrongdoing.

—  John Wright

8,000 march in Poland’s gay Pride parade

VANESSA GERA  |  Associated Press Writer

WARSAW, Poland — Thousands of gays and lesbians from around Europe marched through Poland’s capital Saturday, July 17 to demand equal rights and more tolerance in this heavily Roman Catholic nation.

The parade, part of the EuroPride gay rights festival, is meant to give a boost to the fledgling gay rights movement in Poland. Gay rights were strongly repressed during the communist era, and gays and lesbians have struggled since communism fell 20 years ago for acceptance in a society still strongly influenced by the church.

“We feel like they are 20 years behind the Netherlands,” said Ad Bakker, a 39-year-old from Holland who traveled to Warsaw to show solidarity with Polish friends. “But the atmosphere is good and we hope that EuroPride will help.”

A Polish friend of his, Sebastian Blaszczyk, 36, said the situation in Poland “gets better and better every year,” but the country still has far to go in accepting gays.

An initial police estimate put the number of participants at 8,000.

At the head of the parade were women on motorcycles wearing vests that said “Dykes on Bikes.” They were followed by trucks carrying people dancing and waving to the beat of pop songs like the Village People’s hit :YMCA.” Demonstrators waved rainbow flags and banners — many in English — calling for a more tolerant society.

“It’s OK to be Gay,” said one banner. Another said: “We’re queer, we’re here and get over it.”

As the activists moved slowly through the city, they passed small, scattered groups of counter-protesters who jeered and heckled them. Police said they arrested eight people — some of whom threw eggs and one of whom attacked a police officer — for trying to disturb the march.

—  John Wright