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Perched in the back of a bright red convertible, Progressive Conservative Leader Joe Clark acted as marshal of Calgary's Gay Pride parade yesterday, relentlessly waving to cheering spectators wearing outlandish outfits.

"We love you, Joe," screamed Ben Stafford, with a giant pink condom stretched over his head.

"Way to go Joe," shouted Bryant Larsen, with a studded leather collar wrapped around his neck.

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Bolstered police presence seemed unnecessary as a Kansas-based religious group threatening to protest against the parade was a no-show. Margie Phelps, lawyer for a Baptist church in Topeka, said she advised church members not to go to Calgary because she couldn't get assurances that protesters wouldn't be thrown into jail.

The parade went off without a hitch, with Mr. Clark and his wife, Maureen McTeer, greeting the thousands lining the parade route from the back of a BMW.

"I was happy to be part of the celebration," Mr. Clark told reporters. "I've always believed in equality and encouraging groups to do their best and make their community better."

Mr. Clark, the first former prime minister to take part in a Gay Pride parade, offered a simple explanation for the fact his outfit was less than colourful. "I'm a pretty dull guy." But, he said, "I'm not wearing a tie. Isn't that extraordinary?"

Only a few antigay protesters staked out the parade route.

"I feel alone but somebody's got to do it," said Dave Walters, sitting in a lounge chair, holding a placard that read: "God's Way Is Not Gay."

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