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Sydney New Years Eve Rainbow waterfall heralds new dawn for equality

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A rainbow waterfall of fireworks will cascade from Sydney Harbour Bridge as part of this year’s New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the dramatic technicolour fireworks would confirm Sydney as the New Year’s Eve capital of the world and celebrate Australians saying ‘Yes’ to marriage equality.

"This is a fabulous way to see out 2017 – the year that four out of five Sydneysiders said a resounding 'Yes' to marriage equality," the Lord Mayor said.

"The rainbow waterfall is a well-earnt tribute to the Sydney 78ers who marched for gay rights 40 years ago – it's a reminder of how far we have come and how far we have left to achieve true equality for our LGBTI community. It's a wonderful way to ring in the New Year, and celebrate the 40th anniversary of Mardi Gras.

"With more fireworks than ever before, this year's Sydney NYE celebration guarantees to be the biggest, brightest and best in the world.

"Sydney New Year's Eve contributes an estimated $133 million to the local economy and puts Sydney on the map as a global city for tourism, business, events and creativity on every level."

It takes Sydney fireworks director Fortunato Foti and the crew from Sydney family company Foti Fireworks International more than 5,000 hours to create the New Year's Eve display.

"The challenge this year was to create never-before-seen displays. Out of this we've created some great effects that I'm looking forward to sharing with the people of Sydney and the world," Mr Foti said.

"This waterfall effect is a first for the bridge and we've chosen the rainbow colours that work best for fireworks: red, yellow, green, blue, purple and silver."

Mr Foti says there will be more than 100,000 individual pyrotechnic effects on the night, setting a new record for the annual event's 9pm and midnight displays, with:

8 tonnes of fireworks – 1 tonne more than in 2016
13,000 shells – 1,000 more than 2016
30,000 shooting comets – 5,000 more than 2016

Inner-Sydney artist Nadia Hernández is the creative artist for this New Year's Eve and a series of bright artwork designs have inspired vibrant colour palette for the fireworks.

This year the 9pm and midnight firework display and the dramatic lighting effects beamed from the Sydney Harbour Bridge will feature new pastel shades, including bright orange, pink, lime green and light blue.

Her artwork designs also feature inspirational words, including wonder, harmony, hope and together, which will feature in the animations projected onto the harbour bridge pylons on the night.

"I included these words in the New Year's Eve artworks because they reflect my love of Sydney and send a positive message of hope for Australia and the world as we move into a new year," Ms Hernández said.

"The words and colours are all about what a wonderful place Sydney is in summer – spending time outdoors with family and with friends – and that sums up New Year's Eve in Sydney, too.

"It's such an honour to have been chosen by the City to be the creative artist for New Year's Eve. This project really has been a dream come true for me."

This year the Welcome to Country will include a tribute marking the 50th anniversary of the Sydney-San Francisco sister city relationship that will be celebrated in 2018.

A message from the Muwekma Ohlone peoples of the San Francisco Bay area will be projected onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons at the close of the evening's Welcome to Country.

Sydney New Year’s Eve creative consultant Rhoda Roberts AO said the message marked a close connection between the two cities' First Peoples.

"There is a lovely connection between Sydney and San Francisco – both cities are very similar in their geography and both cities have a strong and vibrant Indigenous culture," Ms Roberts said.

"There's a great synergy between the histories of the First Peoples of these two great cities. The language, the stories and the rituals of the Indigenous peoples here and in San Francisco have survived recognised and honoured, and are still strong today."

At the close of New Year's Eve Welcome to Country, the following words in the language of the Muwekma Ohlone people will appear: "Makkin Mak Muwekma Wolwoolum, Akkoy Mak-Warep, Manne Mak Hiswi!", which translates: "We Are Muwekma Ohlone, Welcome To Our Land, Where We Are Born, San Francisco Bay Area".

San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee said the city was proud to be Included in Sydney's New Year's Eve celebrations.

"We are honored that 2018 will mark the 50th Anniversary of the founding of our Sister City friendship which has built common understanding, cooperation and partnership across the Pacific," Mayor Lee said.

"In January our San Francisco delegation will be visiting your beautiful city and joining with your citizens in celebrating 50 years of friendship and to set the foundation for another 50 years of citizen diplomacy.”


The 2017 New Year’s program highlights include:

6pm Pre-show entertainment
8.38pm Welcome to Country ceremony
9pm Family fireworks display
9.15pm Harbour of Light Parade
midnight Spectacular 2017 Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks display

Getting in and out of the city centre is different on New Year’s Eve. There will be road closures, on-street fencing and diversions to help people get around safely and move crowds to transport. Visit sydneynewyearseve.com for detailed information.

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Germany Legalises Same Sex Marriage

Germany's lower chamber of Parliament, the Bundstag, approved a measure by a vote of 393 to 226 to legalize same-sex marriage.

The vote came suddenly after Chancellor Angela Merkel softened her stance on the issue to allow a legislator's to "vote their conscience" on this last day of the country's legislative session.

Merkel herself voted against the measure, saying after the vote, "For me and the basic law, it’s about the marriage of a woman and a man. That’s why I voted against it. I hope that the vote today shows not only the mutual respect for different opinions but that this also leads to more peace and social cohesion as well.”

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Commonwealth of countries establishes Equality Network

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The Commonwealth Equality Network (TCEN) welcomes the decision by the Commonwealth to approve the Network for accreditation as a Commonwealth organisation.

As a result of this landmark decision, TCEN is now the first and only LGBTI-focused organisation to be officially accredited by the Commonwealth.

Accreditation means that TCEN activists will benefit from increased access to, participation in and information about Commonwealth matters. It also sends a strong signal that the voices and needs of LGBTI people are legitimate and LGBTI activists have a vital role in civil society.

Established in 2013, TCEN is a diverse network of 38 civil society organisations in 39 countries working to challenge inequality and end discrimination against LGBTI people in the Commonwealth. The majority of TCEN members originate in low- and middle-income countries in the Global South. The Government of Canada has welcomed the Network’s accreditation, noting that TCEN “has challenged discrimination and countered homophobia and transphobia around the world—and today it represents a diversity of civil society organizations within the 52 member nations of the Commonwealth. This step will ensure that LGBTQ2 rights are an ever more important priority for the Commonwealth.”

TCEN is greatly encouraged by accreditation.

Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, Chair of TCEN and Executive Director of EQUAL GROUND – SRI LANKA, said: “Considering the process it takes, it is a small wonder and a great victory for TCEN to have been given accreditation as a Commonwealth organisation. I am certain TCEN can make great inroads into gaining LGBTI rights in the Commonwealth. I look forward to the day when all countries within the Commonwealth adhere to the principles of human rights and equality enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter, safeguarding LGBTI rights and upholding freedom and equality for all.”

Caleb Orozco, Executive Director of the United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) and the winner of the 2017 David Kato Vision and Voice Award, whose successful lawsuit ended in Belize’s anti-homosexuality being law struck down in 2016, said: “Finally, Commonwealth governments have acknowledged that their LGBTI citizens’ dignity and rights are a part of democratic principles that should be at the policy table. As a citizen of the Commonwealth, it gives me hope that states will not leave totally the defence of rights to be the burden, alone, of individuals.”

Paul Dillane, Executive Director of the Kaleidoscope Trust, a London-based Network member and host of the TCEN Secretariat, said: “Let us be clear about the scale of the challenge: 36 countries in the Commonwealth continue to criminalise consensual same-sex acts and in many others LGBTI people experience discrimination and violence.

TCEN provides an important platform for activists around the world to organise and collaborate in the struggle for equality and freedom. This decision provides TCEN with a vital opportunity to put the human rights of LGBTI people on the agenda.”

In 2015, a group of TCEN members participated in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta, where a Barbadian activist became the first person to address Commonwealth foreign ministers on the lived reality of its LGBTI citizens. Such activism is resulting in the emergence of progressive policy; research on LGBTI rights in the Commonwealth shows how Commonwealth governments have made progress on LGBTI rights and presents best practice that other governments can learn from.

TCEN will harness the momentum accreditation gives to continue the struggle for the dignity, equality and basic freedoms of all LGBTI people throughout the Commonwealth, particularly during next year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit hosted by the UK in April 2018.

 

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Israel Announces $US2.7 Million Plan To Advance LGBT Equality

The Israeli government announced Wednesday a nearly $3 million plan to promote equality for the country’s LGBT community.

The plan was approved as part of the 2017-18 budget, and will be divided among the Social Equality, Welfare and Education ministries.

Under the new initiative, the Social Equality ministry will receive $660,000 to create a campaign aimed at combating discrimination, the Welfare ministry will be allotted $400,000 to construct LGBT centers nationwide and the Education ministry will be granted $1.3 million to formulate activities that promote tolerance.

The remainder of the funds will be evenly distributed among various LGBT organizations throughout the country. Some money will also be set aside for the Sheba Medical Center, which oversees a majority of Israel’s gender confirmation surgeries.

“There is no doubt that this is a significant milestone for the gay community in its efforts to achieve equality in Israel,” Aguda Israeli National LGBT Task Force Executive Director Ohad Hizki said. “This is the beginning of a truly good year.”

The move comes at the end of a summer that saw both triumphant moments for the LGBT community (such as the great successes of Tel Aviv Pride and a movement to bring Israeli soldiers and LGBT families together for the High Holy Days) and moments of blatant homophobia (like these religious protests over a gay singer’s performance and the military’s inclusion of LGBT soldiers.)

Hopefully, this new allocation of funds will only help to push Israel toward full acceptance of its LGBT citizens.

h/t: Jewish News Service

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Hawkesbury Council backs Marriage Equality

Western Sydney's Hawkesbury Council tonight voted to support Marriage Equality.

It seemed that it might not get up seeing as The Mayor who previously had voted against writing to the Prime Minister in support of marriage equality and against flying the rainbow flag for Mardi Gras (stating he was a staunch Catholic and therefore against it) but he changed his mind and put up a Mayoral Minute asking Council to support marriage equality at tonight's meeting.

Greens Clr Leigh Williams amended the Mayoral minute and the following motion passed.

● Council supports marriage equality

● Council opposes the imposition and cost of $162 million non-binding plebiscite to achieve marriage equality and would prefer an immediate parliamentary vote on the matter. Should the government proceed with a plebiscite, Council resolves to support the Yes campaign.

● Council seeks to engage with the local LBGTIQ community with the aim of working with them to campaign for marriage equality.

 

The vote went down as follows:

 

Supported

Leigh Williams - Greens

Barry Calvet - Labor

Tiffany Tree - Liberal

Paul Rasmussen - independent

Christine Paine - independent

Mary Lyons-Buckett - independent

Mike Creed - Liberal

Kim Ford - Liberal (Mayor)

 

Opposed

Jill Reardon - Liberal

Warwick McKay - independent  (Deputy Mayor)

Patrick Connolly - Liberal

 

Absent

Bob Porter - independent

 

Congratulations to the people of Hawkesbury. Many New South Wales councils (that were not force amalgamated by Mike Baird) will go to a vote on Saturday September 10.  Local councils do have a huge impact on resources and social policy for LGBTQI communities - so make sure your vote counts.

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ALP Gay Marriage Debate fizzles in Victoria

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The Victorian Labor Party move to back same-sex marriage has failed to even be discussed because there were not enough people in the room to vote on the controversial motion at their conference.

 

In recent days, the media had been touting this issue would put the Victorian party at odds with the national party - especially Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who does not support gay marriage.

Gay marriage and other motions that were to be debated by the state conference in Melbourne on Saturday did not go ahead, all because the meeting was short by the two or three people needed to have a quorum, however The Robert Blackwood Concert Hall at Monash University in Clayton had been packed for Ms Gillard's keynote address and a speech by state Labor Leader Daniel Andrews on Saturday morning. Many party members had cleared out by mid-afternoon when the time came to address numerous urgency motions.

Two counts were carried out to see if the required 150 people needed for the motions to be debated were present, but they came up short at 145 and 147.

Guidetogay.com reached out to the parties headquarters for a statement on why the members did not remain for these votes, yet there was no official response by the party's headquarters at the time of publication.

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