New Mardi Gras has appointed Monica Hingston, the lesbian cousin of Catholic Cardi-nal George Pell and her partner of 19 years, Peg Moran, as this year’s chief-of-parade.

Following is the full statement Hingston released yesterday:

For Peg and I, the Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras is more than a celebration of gay culture. It is and always has been a political statement, particularly when you consider its origins as a demonstration march in the late 1970s.

It is saying to society that we need to be recognised and treated as equal citizens in the eyes of the law.

When first approached to be chief-of-parade, we did have some hesitations. These were mainly due to the negative image that much of the mainstream media portrays of the Sydney Gay And Lesbian Mardi Gras.

However, the parade is filled with many wonderful organisations who are all there to make a political statement, including the police and of course the wonderful PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).

What all these groups are saying is that we’re here to stay and we’re not going away. We want the Church and the state authorities to listen to us, to hear what we’re saying about our second-class citizenship.

There are so many areas where inequalities still exist for gay and lesbian people. When it comes to life insurance, the reversionary pension scheme and defence force personnel -“ people in same-sex relationships are not afforded the same benefits that their heterosexual colleagues are.

The same can be said for our superannuation legislation, which needs immediate attention.

But I do feel that these are secondary to simply having society recognise and accept that same-sex couples can have extraordinarily healthy, long-term, stable relationships.

Since my letter was published in January, I have heard from so many people who have suffered enormous anguish and pain for so many years over rejection from their families or church.

This anguish is about an innate desire that we all have to be accepted by our families, to be able to say that we have a same-sex partner, and to be able to share in family gatherings as a couple.

We simply want the essence of who we are to be accepted.

For Peg and I, this is an issue of justice. Justice issues have been central to all that we have been involved in and committed to throughout our lives.

The movement for equality really is unstoppable.

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