Support for Mardi Gras

The annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras celebrations are a highlight in my calendar.

Yesterday morning I again raised the Rainbow Flag at Town Hall to mark the beginning of Mardi Gras, following the successful inaugural flag raising last year.

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the first meeting of lesbians and gay men held in Australia. Held in a Balmain church hall, around 50 people at that meeting agreed to establish the Campaign Against Moral Persecution or CAMP, giving birth to Australia's gay and lesbian movement.

I was honoured to see some of the people who attended that first meeting join us for the flag raising.

My involvement with Mardi Gras dates back to 1986 when I was invited to be a parade judge. I subsequently judged the costume parade and in my first year as Bligh MP I was invited to launch the 1989 Mardi Gras Festival. This year will be my 19th Parade since I first took part as the only Member of the Legislative Assembly in the parliamentary group that marched for the first time in 1992.

I look forward to once again joining my gay and lesbian friends at Mardi Gras Fair Day on Sunday and in the Parade on Saturday 5 March.

In keeping with this year's theme "Don't Just stand there. Say Something..." my parade entry will "say something" about the need for relationship equality for same-sex couples. Join me to show your support for all families having the same chance to be legally recognised, but get in quick as there are only a few spaces left in my parade group.

I continue support my for Mardi Gras in and outside parliament. When Mardi Gras was under attack from conservatives and homophobes I tabled petitions supporting Mardi Gras on every Parliamentary sitting day.

I strongly supported Mardi Gras' request to be considered a hallmark event and to be exempt from charges which government agencies wanted to impose for staging the annual Parade.

The City provides significant ongoing financial support for Mardi Gras and has formally recognised it as a major festival. In 2008 Council unanimously endorsed my recommendation to request the NSW Government to help fund Mardi Gras to ensure that it remains a sustainable and exciting event.

Events NSW subsequently provided funding for Mardi Gras for three years, with the current arrangements due to expire following the 2011 Mardi Gras. If I am re-elected, I will encourage the incoming government to continue this support.

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