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News: World

Tue 8 Mar, 2011
By Sam Bristowe

When they said they were doing it for equality for marriage, I think I was more inclined to march

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Sydney Mardi Gras celebrations focus gay marriage

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"Brides" and "grooms" danced through the streets of Sydney on Saturday as the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras campaigned for same-sex marriage in an explosion of feathers, sequins and music.

Thousands of people, some scantily clad and others donning bridal dresses or suits, turned out for the 34th parade, this year dubbed the "Say Something" march to protest Australia's ban on gay weddings.

"Be gleeful! It gets better.

It's my eleventh gay pride in a row and this is the best one -- it's got the best message," said Kris Pambid, clad in small black shorts and carrying red and white pom poms in homage to the TV show "Glee". "We've lost our voices from screaming."

The annual street party draws people from around the world and brings millions of dollars in tourism revenue to Australia, where gay weddings are banned by law and opposed by both major political parties.

"We will be sending the message tonight that our love is no different and it shouldn't be treated differently by the law," Alex Greenwich, of Australian Marriage Equality, told AFP.

Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who has stated that she believes marriage should be between a man and a woman, was lampooned by one float which featured a giant Gillard, who has never married, in a wedding dress.

Marchers said gay marriage, which campaigners say has widespread public support, was an issue that had ignited the parade this year despite the cold and slightly rainy conditions.

"When they said they were doing it for equality for marriage, I think I was more inclined to march," said black-suited Sydneysider Nicole Parker.

"I'm gay myself and we don't choose who we love. Everyone should have the opportunity to marry and have the same benefits as everybody else."

The streets of downtown Sydney were awash with colour and music for one of the best-known gay pride events in the world which began at sunset and snaked through the Oxford Street shopping and nightclub area.

"I want to see you basking in your own glory," American actress Lily Tomlin told participants ahead of the spectacle. "I want to see glitter and sequins and feathers," she said.

Thousands obeyed, with angel wings, sparkling outfits and plenty of bare chests on display.

Participants say that despite progress on gay rights since the first Sydney Mardi Gras in 1978, when male homosexuality was still illegal in the state, the fight for equality goes on.

Peter Murphy, who took part in Sydney's first Mardi Gras -- which ended in a riot and more than 50 arrests after police forcefully intervened -- said the event had always had a sense of fun despite its serious message.

"It was meant to be dancing, it was meant to be music, costumes and frivolity and a friendly message," he said.

"The original concept is still there today, it's just unbelievable how huge it is."

Source: AFP


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