Tel Aviv - Thousands of people gathered in Tel Aviv in Israel on Friday for the annual Gay Pride parade, which attracts visitors from all over the world, this year including France's first gay married couple.
Gay, lesbian and transgender activists and sympathisers, draped in rainbow flags, awaited the departure of a procession of floats through the Mediterranean coastal city blasting out electronic music.
Tel Aviv city hall said this marked 20 years since the municipality first organised a public event for the homosexual community.
In addition to thousands of Israelis taking part this year there were about 25 000 tourists were expected to join the festivities, said spokesperson Mira Marcus.
Among them are Vincent Autin and his partner Bruno Boileau, who tied the knot in Montpellier after months of passionate debate and protests for and against France last month becoming the 14th country to legalise same-sex marriage.
The couple are honeymooning in Tel Aviv at the invitation of its municipality.
"Tel Aviv is a pluralist city that defends the rights of homosexuals," said Marcus.
"When we learnt that a gay couple had married in France, we decided there was nothing more romantic and appropriate that to invite them to spend their honeymoon in Tel Aviv during Gay Pride," she told AFP.
Autin, aged 40, told AFP: "I had heard a lot about Tel Aviv but was surprised how gay-friendly it was."
"We're pleasantly surprised," his husband Boileau, aged 30, added. "There are rainbow flags everywhere, it's great to be here during Gay Pride."
Israel is widely seen as having liberal gay rights policies, despite the hostility shown towards homosexuals, particularly men, from the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.
Israel repealed a ban on consensual same-sex sexual acts in 1988.
This year's parade began a day after three suspects in a 2009 double murder in a Tel Aviv gay youth centre appeared in court.
Police sources quoted by the media have said the motive appeared to be revenge rather than a hate crime specifically targeting homosexuals.