New Mardi Gras has taken a hardline approach to community parade entries, leaving some long-time participants on the sidelines.
Animal Liberation NSW were last week informed that after four years of taking part in the parade, their entry for 2010 would not be accepted.
New Mardi Gras CEO Michael Rolik said a strict approach to community entrants had become a necessity as the parade continued to expand.
Animal Liberation had not been the only group affected, he said, although for privacy reasons he could not elaborate on which other groups had been denied a parade place.
Animal Liberation’s theme protesting animal cruelty to chickens was a worthy one, Rolik said, but not one that was appropriate for Mardi Gras.
“The community category is for members of GLBTQI groups, from within the community. We couldn’t see the entry from Animal Liberation actually met that criteria,” he told Sydney Star Observer.
“Animal Liberation is a broad-based organisation which, at the end of the day, advances their interest in animal liberation, not necessarily the gay and lesbian community.
“I acknowledge they’ve been in the parade for a number of years, but the parade is getting bigger. We’re not going to refuse bona fide community groups, but in the instance where the group is ambiguous or not a gay and lesbian community group, then we’re going to enforce that standard.”
Animal Liberation NSW spokeswoman Lynda Stoner labelled the decision “unfair”, considering the float was to be comprised of predominantly GLBTQI-identifying participants and feature community and animal rights activists Katrina Fox and Tracie O’Keefe.
“The decision was made because we weren’t specifically working for queer rights — and that’s true ­— but the greater population of our movement is queer and working to improve all society,” Stoner said.
“People in our organisation wanted to come together and unite, to stand up for gay rights, queer rights and animal rights. I don’t see why there’s a conflict in what we’re doing, especially when you take into account some of the corporates.
“I don’t understand what they do for queer rights or queer awareness raising. I don’t see why we were discriminated against as opposed to them.”
Rolik said some commercial organisations had a rightful place in the parade. “Commercial organisations that are involved support the event, which provides support for community businesses and groups,” he said.
“Anyone who’s not a sponsor, who’s not demonstrating their support, we don’t let in. We’re really clear, we have a place in the organisation for those who invest in the festival and parade.
“To have a blue chip like ANZ, sends a really strong message to the wider community, that their organisation is a big supporter of the gay and lesbian community.”

info: The 2010 Mardi Gras parade is on Saturday, February 27.

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