This speech was delivered on 28 February 2013 in the NSW Upper House. You can read the full debate online here.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE [11.11 a.m.]: As a member of The Greens, I proudly and strongly support the motion moved by the Hon. Cate Faehrmann to congratulate the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on its thirty-fifth anniversary festival “Sydney Mardi Gras 2013—Generations of Love”. I feel privileged that throughout all of my life—I am 41 years of age—the Mardi Gras has been a fantastic part of Sydney, with its extraordinary annual celebration of our city’s diversity, tolerance and acceptance of a wonderful part of our community: the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex [LGBTI] community.

Other members spoke about the ground-breaking work of the first Mardi Gras. I respect all of its history and praise those brave 78ers who stood up to police brutality and a much less tolerant society and made that first march. Recently I saw some sketchy footage of the 1978 march available on YouTube. I got a shiver down my spine recognising the courage and strength of those people and was reminded of how far we have come in the 35 years since. The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has been a constant in the constellation of Sydney for as long as I can remember. It has made Sydney a richer, more tolerant, more welcoming and more culturally sexually diverse city, which, for me, is a great part of the story of Sydney, New South Wales and Australia. We as a Parliament should not only congratulate the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, but also celebrate it.

The motion notes some of the core contributions of the Mardi Gras. First, it is a global beacon of diversity, acceptance and equal rights for all people. Discussion in this Chamber about people feeling uncomfortable has emanated from a fairly traditional source of opposition to the Mardi Gras: the Christian Democratic Party—Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile and the Hon. Paul Green—and from the Hon. David Clarke. The contribution of that relatively small part of this House suggests an ongoing intolerance to the Mardi Gras celebration. That intolerance is evidence that the Mardi Gras is as relevant and essential today as an expression of equality as it was 35 years ago. The community needs to fully accept with an open heart that people have differences, such as sexual identities, and should be welcomed and celebrated as a full and active citizen in this society.

Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile: The objection is to the blasphemy and indecency of the Mardi Gras, not to homosexuality.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: The interjection of Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile confirms the lack of acceptance and tolerance. The Hon. Paul Green said we should respect difference in this Chamber. I agree. But I do not respect a political intolerance towards those who identify as homosexual, gay, lesbian, intersex, queer or transgender. I do not respect that form of politics as it divides people and makes individuals feel less worthy. It also reduces our democratic society and diminishes some of its great values of equality and tolerance. The motion notes that the Sydney Mardi Gras is a celebration of the dignity, integrity and pride of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and their families. The reference to families is an important part of the motion. Often parents and siblings stand by or with their children, brothers or sisters when they face intolerance simply because they want to be open and proud of their sexuality. I pay my regard to those parents and family members who stand up for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community because of their personal experience with their children, sisters and brothers.

Unfortunately, it appears from the majority of comments in this debate that paragraph 2 (c)—noting that the Mardi Gras supports the campaign for full equality for all people, regardless of sexuality, gender, sex or intersex status—will be deleted. It is remarkable that in 2013 a group of democratically elected legislators will not support full equality for such an important part of our community. I find it extraordinary that the campaign for full equality faces such political opposition. I ask members to reflect upon how relatively backward Australia and New South Wales has become on the full equality debate by reading the opinion piece in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, if nothing else.

The respected journalist puts forward her observations of the marriage equality debate in the House of Commons, the overwhelming support for full marriage equality on a conscience vote, and the mature and reflective procedure of that debate. Compare that to the divisive and narrow way in which the major political parties in Australia and New South Wales have run the marriage equality debate and the core argument about full equality. Democratically elected representatives should reflect on how they can advance that debate rather than seek to be divisive and single out paragraph 2 (c) as somehow detracting from a motion for the Mardi Gras. The overwhelming majority of participants in the Mardi Gras would strongly support full equality for all people regardless of sexuality, gender, sex or intersex status. For that reason, this House in celebrating the Mardi Gras should celebrate also that truth about the Mardi Gras, its participants and organisers.

The motion comes at an extremely timely moment. The Mardi Gras will be held this weekend and it will be a wonderful celebration. It will build on an extraordinary history of triumph over adversity, of increasing tolerance and increasing acceptance. I congratulate the organisers. I congratulate the community and the great bulk of New South Wales society that supports the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. I hope everybody has a wonderful Mardi Gras on the weekend.