A larger-than-expected crowd turned out last night to watch as the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras 2011 marched, sashayed and danced its way through Darlinghurst with a message about same-sex marriage equality at its core.
Organisers and police noted a very high turnout to this year?s Parade with Darlinghurst packed full of people – gay, straight, local and tourist – who had turned out to be thrilled, titillated, moved, and entertained as 135 floats and nearly 8500 people paraded the finery that marks this world-famous event.
Leading the way, for the first time, a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people welcomed the crowds along the entire Parade route with a traditional Smoking Ceremony.
They were closely followed by a float bearing a selection of high profile „Heroes? – gay people who have had the courage to „Say Something? – including Hollywood star Lily Tomlin, who was driven down the streets dressed in a spectacular Priscilla-esque rainbow dress, which billowed out behind her.
A pivotal point of the Parade occurred around half-way through when a large number of floats carried the message of marriage equality, including:
Drag kings dressed in white tuxedos danced on towering stilts; statuesque drag queens waltzed by dressed in massive „wedding cake? dresses decorated in cupcakes and floral bouquets; a golden carriage bearing soon-to-be-wed royalty was pulled by six human „horses? dressed in fetish rubber gear; the Australian Marriage Equality float carried prominent supporters of the cause including Professor Kerryn Phelps and her family.
These floats had all responded to this year?s call by organisers to „Say Something?, by demanding the legalisation of same-sex marriage.
There were grotesque effigies of the two giants of our political landscape: Julia Gillard, clad in a wedding dress, bore the speech bubble “62% of Aussies support equality, Tony...”; Tony Abbott, in budgie-smugglers, replied in a speech bubble: “Yeah, well, shit happens, Julia...”.
World-renowned gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, one of the "Heroes" that took pride of place in the Parade, had earlier that day called on Julia Gillard to legalise same-sex marriage in Australia.
Other notable themes in the Parade included supporting rainbow youth, celebrating workplace diversity and acknowledging GLBTQ history – with the double-decker bus that carried the original „78ers at the end of the march drawing cheers, applause, tears and bows from visibly moved crowds.
New Mardi Gras CEO Michael Rolik said: “Last night?s event was a global beacon of diversity and pride, and showcased the wonderful culture of acceptance and celebration in Sydney?s communities.”
“The great turnout last night underlines not only that we have overwhelming support for equal rights for GLBTQ people, but also that the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade is one of the most economically significant events in New South Wales. It generates millions of dollars in annual income for the state.”
“We are at the foothills of a state election, and, whoever is in government after that, we look forward to working with them to grow this event – not just for our community, but for the whole community of Sydney that shares our values and our vision.”