Baltic activists parade for gay, lesbian rights

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Several hundred activists from the Baltic states and neighboring countries braved rain and hail to participate in an annual parade in defense of gay and lesbian rights in Latvia.

The march took place in a commercial district in downtown Riga, Latvia's capital, amid heavy police presence. Previous gay pride parades in the Baltics have been marred by violence on the part of protesters.

U.S. diplomats who took part in the Saturday event stressed the fundamental importance of equal rights and freedom of expression and urged participants to keep battling for their cause.

Like other former Soviet republics, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have largely proven to be intolerant toward gays and lesbians despite having joined the European Union in 2004.