MORE than 500,000 spectators lined Oxford Street tonight for the 40th SYDNEY GAY AND LESBIAN MARDI GRAS parade.
Highlight of the annual event was a delegation of marchers who had taken part in the original event in 1978 which spawned rioting and protests ... which evolved into the Mardi Gras.
This year's parade capped two weeks of gala events and culminated with a standing-room-only after party overnight Saturday/Sunday.
Mardi Gras began as a gay and lesbian rights protest on 24 June 1978. Thousands of LGBTI people and their supporters participated, and although organisers got permission from police, this was later revoked and police violently broke up the march and unfairly arrested participants at a time when homophobia and discrimination were rife.
Those courageous 78ers built on work of early groups providing support and lobbying for reform, paving the way for 40 years of progress for LGBTI rights, albeit with many setbacks and difficulties along the way.
Since then Australians have seen the decrimalisation of homosexuality, anti-vilification laws, relationship recognition, property rights, same-sex adoption and last year’s historic passage of marriage equality.
LGBTI Australians are more visible than ever before, from the sporting field to the corporate world, to the floor of their federal parliament, young LGBTI people have role models who have broken down barriers and sent the message that it doesn’t matter who you are, who you love, or what you do, we are all equal.
This year saw more politicians marching than ever before. And, for the first time, the parade celebrated the many newlywed same-sex and gender diverse couples who have married in Australia. Marriage equality campaigners could finally jump for joy down Oxford Street instead of preaching for progress.
Plans are already being made for next year's Sydney Mardi Gras.