Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras: The First Gay Pride in the Times of Same-sex Marriage

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Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras: The First Gay Pride in the Times of Same-sex Marriage

(Blogmensgo, gay blog of March 10, 2018) The parade in Sydney on March 3, 2018 celebrated not only the 40th Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras but also the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in Australia. With the slogan 40 years of evolution, about 300,000 people celebrated until late at night. Many celebrities participated in the festivities, including Prime Minister Michael Turnbull and American singer and actress Cher who was the headline of the big After party.

This video gives an impression of the parade that lasted until late at night:

Unbelievable masses of people

The weather was beautiful, and many policemen were present – but there were not many problems besides some small drug offenses.

No less than 195 floats and about 12,500 people were marching through Liverpool Street, Oxford Street and Flinders Street for hours, which is an absolute record for this event.

About 250 participants of the first Gay Pride of June 24, 1978 had come as well. Back then, the police had brutally battered the peaceful march. The Sydney police has since apologized for their behavior and has participated officially in the parade for many years now.

In various ways, many floats and participating groups honored these veterans in the fight for LGBT rights.

The former participants of 1978 explained the important role that the annual “Sydney Mardi Gras” has played over the years. Many gays and lesbians have found the courage to come out, in large part because of the famous parade. Many straight people have noticed that gays and lesbians are no different and have therefore supported the political and social demands for equality.

The Sydney Gay Pride has also become one of the biggest tourist attractions for the city.

Cher stood out because of her red wig, of course, and her bodyguards didn't go unnoticed either:

Gay wedding during the parade

James Brechney and Stuart Henshall got married on one of the 195 floats, surrounded by their families and friends, as well as 45 dancers.

The had gotten engaged back in November 2017, immediately after the results of the postal referendum on gay marriage had been announced. Both are committed to the fight for LGBT rights, and James had even founded the group DIY Rainbow in 2013.

The two newlyweds dedicated their wedding to all participants of the 1978 Gay Pride march – especially those who were in this first Gay Pride in Sydney and died before gay marriage was legalized.

Celebrities at the parade

Many famous personalities showed up (at least temporarily) during the parade: the still absolutely fabulous American singer Cher showed herself with one of her pink and orange wigs near the Dykes on Bikes group, at the very beginning of the parade. Australian Prime Minister Michael Turnbull and his wife were also with the first people in the parade.

The Prime Minister of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, posted this photo on her Instagram account, where you can see her right behind Cher and Michael Turnbull.

Michael Turnbull, Cher and Gladys Berejiklian.

Michael Turnbull, Cher and Gladys Berejiklian.

After the party is before the party…

Cher was the undisputed star at the after-party as well – at 71 years, she is still great. Considering the big time lag after her arrival, she only performed for 18 minutes, but the atmosphere was absolutely exuberant.

Many famous DJs played at the big party, which unfortunately caused a long line in front of the entrance.

Here is the final picture of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, a big and pink thank you to everyone:

Thank you

Danke! Merci ! Thank you! ¡Gracias! Grazie! ©

Mardi Gras: History of the big party

Nearly 40 years ago, on 24 June 1978, right in the winter in the southern hemisphere, several hundred men and women marched on Oxford Street in Sydney at night to express their social and political demands.

Sydney, June 24, 1978

Most banners and posters claimed an end to the persecution of gays and lesbians. In 1978, homosexuality was still a criminal offence in New South Wales, and homophobia was completely normal. The police covered them up or even bashed people themselves.

The authorities had approved the demonstration on June, 24 1978 in a narrow area between Oxford Street and Hyde Park. On the one hand it had political demands, but above all, it was a great celebration. When some demonstrators ventured out of the approved area, a real tragedy began.

Violence by the police

The police first confiscated the most prominent float, sealed off the quarter, and then surrounded and beat up the demonstrators. In the end, 53 men and women were arrested and imprisoned on a flimsy basis.

What is even worse, the Sydney Morning Herald and other local papers revealed the 53 prisoners’ names and other data, and many of them lost their jobs as a result.

More demonstrations followed, calling for an end to the persecution of gays and lesbians and the release of the detainees, but penalization of homosexuality was ended in 1984 only. In February 2016, Parliament formally apologized to the people concerned. The Sydney Morning Herald and the police also apologized for their actions in 2016.

On the screen today

On February 25, 2018, Australian TV channel ABC broadcast the television film Riot by Jeffrey Walker on the 1978 riots. The script was written by Greg Waters based on a story by Scottish writer and actress Carrie Anderson.

Riot was shot before the result of the postal referendum of 2017. The public debate on homosexual marriage in Australia gave the television film an additional commercial boost and showed the whole country the madness of the institutionalized homophobia of that time.

Why Mardi Gras anyway?

In the Christian tradition, the French term “Mardi gras” stands for carnival Tuesday, the last day before Lent. Today, the parades are on a Saturday, but the name has remained.

The term Mardi Gras found its way into the English language and culture, perhaps via the then French-speaking New Orleans. Today, the term Mardi Gras in English usually refers to the Gay Pride of Sydney.

Frank-S / MensGo

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