Officials in Brazil say nearly 700,000 people took part in Rio de Janeiro's annual Gay Pride Parade at Copacabana beach on Sunday, the AFP reported.

Organizers had hoped the parade would draw double the number of people.

Revelers cheered legal victories that effectively allow gay and lesbian couples to enter a civil union and put marriage nearly within reach. (Brazil does recognize the legal marriages of gay couples from outside its borders. Argentina and Mexico City legalized gay marriage last year.) The crowd also called on lawmakers to ban homophobia.

Brazil decriminalized gay sex in 1830 and discrimination based on sexual orientation was outlawed in 1988. But violence against LGBT people is on the rise. Homophobic attacks left 198 people dead in 2009.

San Paulo's annual Gay Pride Parade, held in June, is considered the world's largest Gay Pride Parade, drawing this year an estimated 3.2 million to the city's main artery. There too organizers called on lawmakers to address the increasing violence.

“We're bringing a strong theme this year to encourage people to vote for candidates who really are doing something on behalf of LGBT people,” Alexandre Santos, president of the Association of GLBT Pride Parade in Sao Paulo, told