North Macedonia holds its first Pride parade
North Macedonia is holding its first ever Pride parade on Saturday, although there are plans for a rival march in support of "traditional family values".
Skopje Pride will have a fitting soundtrack - local pop star Tamara Todevska will perform her hit Proud, which won the jury vote at this year's Eurovision Song Contest.
She told the Skopje1 news site that "everyone deserves to live their lives according to their own rules. Love yourself, rejoice, life is beautiful. Love is love".
She will be joined by ministers and members of parliament, according to the Pride organisers, who have also extended an invitation to gay-rights supporters at home and abroad.
But not everyone is feeling the love.
Representatives of conservative and religious groups are staging a separate march not far from where Skopje Pride will take place, to raise their concerns about what they call "LGBT propaganda", says the Televizija 24 news site.
The parallel gathering is being organised by a group called Alliance for Life who say they are not happy with the growing influence of Western and other values that "seek to redefine marriage, family and gender" away from the traditional definitions of Orthodox Christianity.
They want the ministers and MPs who are going to Pride to come to their march too, otherwise they're "discriminating against family values".
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Macedonian LGBTI rights activist Koco Andonovski told the Ekspres news site that the counter march is an attempt to intimidate people into avoiding the parade, which Alliance for Life denies.
But some of the social-media rhetoric of its supporters has been very unpleasant, accusing the Pride event of being a "Parade of the Sick" and a "Parade of Shame", not to mention asking whether Pride means being "proud of disease".
'Safe for everyone'
But Antonio Mihajlov of the parade organising committee insists nothing is going to spoil the party.
"Skopje Pride is a safe and secure event for everyone, so I invite LGBTI people, supporters, and citizens who strive for equality and inclusiveness, to join us," he told Skopje1. North Macedonia Pride comes at an important time for its supporters, as it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, which were triggered by a police raid on a gay bar.
New York is hosing this year's WorldPride celebration to mark the riots, which were a turning-point for the gay rights movement.
Reporting by Krassi Twigg
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