COOGEE state Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith has urged the NSW Parliament to apologise for the mass arrests and abuse meted out to marchers at the inaugural Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade in 1978.
The openly-gay MP swathes of Sydney’s eastern suburbs made the call on Tuesday at the launch of the first NSW parliamentary friendship group for the LGBTI community.
[showads ad=MREC]In June 1978, six years before homosexuality was decriminalised in NSW, several hundred people marched along Oxford St in support of the gay and lesbian community and to mark the anniversary of New York City’s Stonewall Riots.
When the parade – which numbered over 1000 people – eventually broke up in Kings Cross, police arrested 53 people with allegations made against the force of violence both on the streets and in the cells where marchers were held.
“The parliament as an institution should apologise for what was clearly mistreatment of people in the past and which did serious damage to the lives of those who were involved [in] nothing more than fighting what we now take for granted to be fundamental human rights within our society,” Notley-Smith said.
“I think our parliament in NSW is big enough to stand up and offer that.”
Earlier this year, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore backed a proposal from Liberal councillor Christine Forster that City of Sydney should ask Premier Mike Baird and Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione to apologise for police heavy-handedness at the parade.
Sydney state independent MP Alex Greenwich has also called for a sorry from the authorities.
Last year, Victoria police formally apologised for an infamous gay nightclub raid 20 years prior that saw 460 patrons strip-searched.
On Tuesday night, LGBTI community leaders, parliamentary staff and MPs from across the state marked the launch of the friendship group with a screening of acclaimed rainbow family documentary Gayby Baby which — just hours later — would be embroiled in a media storm after NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli banned schools from showing the film during staff time.
Notley- Smith said the new group would allow MPs to learn more about the concerns of LGBTI people in NSW.
“The purpose is to promote those issues which confront the LGBTIQ community amongst parliamentarians and their staff but also to celebrate the great things about our community,” he said.
The NSW Parliament currently has more out-gay members than any other legislature in Australia.
Upper house Labor MP Penny Sharpe encouraged all MPs, no matter which area or party they represented, to be part of the group.
“The days of the Katter stance, where you say there are no gays in my electorate, are well and truly over,” she said.
“MPs can show their support for equality by being part of the group and it tells their constituents that they can come to them and talk about the issues that face them.”
Sharpe said she was keen to see trans* and intersex law reform and that every NSW school should be a safe place for same-sex attracted and gender diverse students.
Newtown state Greens MP Jenny Leong praised the cross-party support for the group.
“Given what’s happening at the federal level, that’s a really strong message for us to be sending to show that it is possible for politicians from all parties to come together and advance the interests of the LGBTI community,” she said.
Greenwich said NSW Parliament had set the standard for multi-party cooperation to progress reforms for LGBTI communities.
The highest-ranking member of the NSW Government to attend the launch was Health Minister Jillian Skinner.
“I love the [LGBTI] community,” she told the Star Observer.
“I think its great to see things like this in Parliament House – it can only do good.”[showads ad=FOOT]