Thousands in Singapore gay rights rally despite opposition

SINGAPORE - Thousands of people gathered in Singapore on Saturday for an annual gay rights rally celebrating sexual diversity in the city-state, despite fierce opposition from religious conservatives.

Straight and homosexual Singaporeans turned Speakers' Corner, a government designated free-speech park, into a sea of pink - the colour chosen by organisers to represent the freedom to love.

Revellers wore everything from neon pink-rimmed spectacles to tube tops and even facial hair dyed in the colour while dogs were spotted in pink clothing and leashes for the "Pink Dot" rally.

Organisers said they expected the final turnout to top last year's record of 20,000, making it one of tightly-controlled Singapore's biggest public rallies in recent times.

The name of the event is a play on Singapore's nickname - "The Little Red Dot" on the world map.

Rally spokesman Paerin Choa stressed it was not a protest but aimed to "promote inclusiveness and diversity and to make LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Singaporeans feel that this is a place we can all call home".

The rally has grown in stature since its first edition in 2009, when 2,500 people attended. It now enjoys the support of local celebrities as well as internet giant Google and financial firms Barclays and J.P. Morgan.

The four-hour, carnival-like rally features musical performances by Singaporean artists, and will culminate with the crowd forming a giant pink dot after dusk by holding LED lights.

Participants brushed off countermovements by Christian and Muslim conservatives opposing the city-state's growing gay rights movement.