Why I am proud to march at my first Mardi Gras

06 March 2014


Mardi Gras is an affirmation for those confident enough to march, but also for those still coming to terms with their sexuality. And now, we need to win the argument for marriage equality.
Sydney Mardi Gras this weekend will be a celebration full of excitement and spectacle. It will also be a powerful expression of how far we have come as a community and how far we still have to go. Ill be proud to march with Rainbow Labor in my first Mardi Gras. I see this as another way to add my voice to the campaign for equality.
This year marks two important milestones for Australias LGBTI community. It is the 36th anniversary of Mardi Gras and it is 30 years since legislation was passed to decriminalise homosexuality in New South Wales. These anniversaries highlight the dual faces of Mardi Gras a celebration of identity and a call for change; an opportunity to party and a forum for protest.
Over the years, the parade has provided a highly visible focal point for the campaign for justice and equality. Mardi Gras makes the principle of equality real. It is thousands of people of great diversity and difference marching for one simple idea that equality matters.
In the early years, it was met by arrests and clashes with police. We should not forget those that marched through intolerance and violence so that we can march in celebration. It has become an integral part of the Sydney and Australian social calendar and not just for the LGBTI community it is an event that receives national and international coverage.
But there is always work to be done to confront discrimination and prejudice and to pursue social, political and legislative advances. When we march we need to remember those who are not marching the young boy growing up in western NSW or the teenage girl in regional Queensland, struggling to work out who they are.
Our march is more for them than ourselves. Imagine the impact on young people like this when they hear bigoted comments and encounter homophobia the hurt can be immeasurable. For me, this drives home the need for people who are in leadership positions to speak out; to be counted. Mardi Gras is an affirmation, not only for those of us who are confident enough to march, but also for those still coming to terms with their sexuality.
Political leaders need to take up the fight against homophobia and discrimination. When I entered parliament in 2002, I would not have believed that within the next 11 years the ALP would change its platform to support same sex marriage and that a Labor prime minister go to an election promising to introduce marriage equality legislation.
We have come this far because people have advocated, organised and worked together people in the community and people in political parties. We have achieved a considerable amount because we have been prepared to work together for a common cause. We have won the arguments for reforms ranging from decriminalisation to the elimination of legislative discrimination in areas like superannuation and adoption.
Now we need to win the argument for marriage equality and we will win this argument because the principle of equality is such a powerful, clear and simple idea. After all, we are arguing for the most important people in our lives the people we love.
To view the original article on The Guardian please click here.