OPPOSITION Leader Bill Shorten will become the first leader of a major federal party to march at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.

The leader of the Australian Labor Party today announced he would march with the Rainbow Labor contingent at this year’s Mardi Gras Parade alongside his wife Chloe, their three children and Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek.

The announcement comes after he attended the Midsumma Pride March in Melbourne with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

Shorten told Star Observer he decided to join the Mardi Gras Parade so he could send an important message to Australia’s LGBTI communities.

“It sends a strong message that LGBTI Australians are valued members of our community, entitled to the same opportunities, love and respect as everybody else,” he said.

“This message is important for everybody to hear, but it’s especially important for young people who are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity – this is why I was so keen to get involved.”

The Maribyrnong MP said he wanted to use his status as Labor leader to fight for LGBTI equality.

“I am committed to delivering equality for LGBTI Australians in all aspects of life, including the right to marry the person they love,” Shorten said.

“This will be my first time marching at Mardi Gras. I love Mardi Gras – it’s a fantastic celebration of the LGBTI community and a powerful demonstration of the ongoing fight for equality.”

Bill Shorten (centre) at this year's Midsumma Pride March.

Bill Shorten (centre) at this year’s Midsumma Pride March. (PHOTO: Daniel Bone; Star Observer)

Shorten said his participation in this year’s Mardi Gras Parade demonstrated how far LGBTI rights have come since the parade’s inception in 1978.

“The brave activists that marched in the first parade in 1978 faced violence, abuse and arrest.” he said.

“The fact that the federal leader of a major political party is now joining the Parade shows us just how far we’ve come in the fight for equality and inclusion.

“This is why a festival like Mardi Gras is so important.”

Shorten promised if he were elected at the upcoming Federal Election he would act on making marriage equality a reality.

“If Labor wins the next election, we will introduce a bill into (Federal) Parliament within 100 days of taking office – that’s my commitment,” he said.

He also acknowledged there were a number of issues facing LGBTI Australians aside from marriage equality that needed to be addressed, including making the HIV preventative medication, PrEP, readily available via approval by the Therapeutic Goods Adminstration (TGA) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

“PrEP is a game changer in preventing HIV infection and a key component of getting to zero transmission,” he said.

“I’d like to see Gilead (biopharmaceutical company) and the regulatory authorities working together to get through TGA and PBS processes as quickly as possible.”

The Star Observer has contacted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s office to see if he would be marching in this year’s Mardi Gras Parade. At the time of print, a response was not yet received.

The Star Observer is a proud media partner of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

For all of Star Observer’s Mardi Gras coverage, click here

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