Nearly 7,000 people took part Saturday in the first Swiss Gay Pride event organised in the southern, Italian-speaking canton of Ticino.
Speaking after the parade in the city of Lugano, foreign minister Ignazio Cassis condemned any violent or discriminatory attitude based on sexual preference. He said he is aware that homosexuality is illegal in more than 70 countries and is sometimes punishable by death.
And he stressed the role Switzerland can play in defending human rights regardless of sexual orientation. “A few days ago, I raised the issue with a delegation from Belorus,” he told the crowd. “The opening of a Swiss embassy in Minsk is also linked to the acceptance of homosexual people.”
Cassis, who hails from Ticino, said he was struck by the "beauty of this joyous, colourful, peaceful crowd" and the way they had been welcomed by the population. "Our society has evolved a lot in 20 years," he remarked. "When I was a doctor in Ticino dealing with AIDS, talking about that illness or homosexuality was taboo."
He also praised the "courage" of the Lugano authorities and organisers for holding the parade in Ticino which is "traditionally rather conservative and catholic".
The parade provoked protest from some conservative catholics, but they did not obtain permission to hold a counter-demonstration.
This year there was no particular political message, since "the time is not right", according to the organisers.
The event, which draws gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gender people from all over Switzerland, took place last year in Bern.