FOR the first time in the event’s 38 year history, a sitting Australian Prime Minister has attended Sydney’s Mardi Gras celebrations, one of the world’s premier gay pride parades.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s presence at the event on Saturday March 5 did not go unnoticed. As he made his way through the throng of revelers, mobile phones shot out amongst the glitter and rainbow flags as numerous crowd members attempted to snap selfies of themselves with the PM.
The legalisation of gay marriage is a hot topic in the Australian media at the moment. Although Turnbull’s presence at the event could therefore be seen as politically strategic, he stopped short of marching in the parade, whereas the head of the opposition Labor Party Bill Shorten jumped in headfirst, not only participating in the parade but also vowing to introduce a same-sex marriage bill within 100 days if his party emerges victorious in the next federal elections, which will take place at some point before January 14, 2017.
Many gay icons were present at the parade, including Austrian singer and 2014 Eurovision Song Contest winner, Conchita Wurst, who said she was excited about the event but frustrated at the lack of equality afforded to same-sex relationships in Australia. Another drag performer, Mardi Gras global ambassador Courtney Act, has recently begun to wear a rainbow wedding ring on her finger as a personal protest against the lack of marriage rights for same-sex couples in her native country.
A vocal faction of Australian athletes also made their presence known, as a Rio-themed float full of Olympians and paralympians cruised its way through the Sydney streets, no doubt a precursor to the Rio Olympic Games that are set to hit Brazil later this summer.