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London Pride revelers celebrate 50 years of LGBT decriminalization

Tens of thousands of people have descended on the streets of London for the UK capital's annual Pride parade. This year's march coincides with the 50th anniversary of Britain decriminalizing homosexuality.

Parade organizers hailed this year's march as "the biggest and most colorful Pride in London yet."

The heart of the UK capital was decorated with rainbow flags and colorful balloons, as around 25,000 revelers on Saturday marched down Oxford Street and Regent Street, London's most popular shopping areas. Hundreds of thousands more were expected to continue partying into the early hours of the night in London's Soho district.

Read more: Soho's gay history revealed in new tours

By sunset, the UK Parliament's Palace of Westminster will also be illuminated with a rainbow flag for the very first time to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the UK Sexual Offences Act, which decriminalized homosexuality.

"Here in London you are free to be who you want to be and love who you want to love," London Mayor Sadiq Khan wrote on Twitter.

"Pride brings people together in joyful celebration of our values of freedom, tolerance and equality," UK Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement. "It is a vivid display of the diversity which makes London one of the greatest cities in the world."

Organizers and revelers celebrate to honor of those who can't

Pride organizers said they wanted the city's 45th annual parade to send "a global message of hope, acceptance, activism and love ... and a show of solidarity to LGBT-plus people living in Northern Ireland, which has yet to legalize same-sex marriage."

British Olympic diver Tom Daley, who married his long-term boyfriend earlier this year, was among the high-profile names taking part at this year's march. "It's really important that we remember why Pride started - it's not just to have fun; it's about making sure that we make political progress, and making sure that we try and get equal rights for every single person across the whole world," he told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

Read more: Istanbul police fire rubber bullets, tear gas to keep gay pride marchers off the street

While celebrating the occasion, Norman Fowler, speaker of the upper House of Lords, also offered a somber note, pointing out that "homosexuality is still illegal in over 70 countries around the world." He added, "None of this will be solved by a march, or a display of lights in Westminster, but these acts will demonstrate to those who are being persecuted or abused that they are supported."

Homosexuality in the UK: 50 years legal

The British Parliament approved the Sexual Offences Act on July 27, 1967, which decriminalized homosexual acts in private between two men aged at least 21.

Legislation to allow same-sex marriage in England and Wales was passed by the UK Parliament in July 2013. It came into force on March 13, 2014, with the first same-sex marriages taking place on March 29, 2014. In Scotland, legislation was passed by the regional parliament in Edinburgh in February 2014. The law came into effect on December 16 that year, with the first same-sex marriage ceremonies taking place that very day.

By comparison, Germany legalized gay marriage just last week, making it one of the last western European countries to pass such legislation.

Watch video 01:31

Gay Pride parades: A tale of two cities

dm/jlw (AFP, dpa)

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