THE Sydney Morning Herald has offered a formal apology to the Mardi Gras 78ers, almost 40 years after the newspaper published the names, addresses and occupations of people who took part — many of whom were not out of the closet.
In statement released this morning, editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir said they have also made contact with representatives of the 78ers so they could apologise in person.
On June 24, 1978, more than 500 people descended on Sydney’s Taylor Square for a march down Oxford St in solidarity with New York’s Stonewall movement and to also call for the end of the criminalisation of homosexual acts, discrimination against gay people and for a public celebration of love and diversity.
The march, which grew to 2000 people, would soon become known as the first Mardi Gras parade and its participants named the “78ers”.
However, the march ended in Kings Cross with police arrests and mistreatment — many people were thrown in jail or were attacked.
Three days later, the Herald published the names, addresses and occupations of 53 people who were charged with “taking part in an unlawful procession”.
Many were also charged with hindering police, resisting arrest and using “unseemly words”.
This led to people being outed to their friends and work colleagues, and many of those arrested lost their jobs as homosexuality was a crime in NSW until 1984.
Goodsir said it was the “custom and practice of the day” to publish full details of people who appeared in court, regardless of the offence they had been charged with.
“In 1978, The Sydney Morning Herald reported the names, addresses and professions of people arrested during public protests to advance gay rights,” Goodsir said in his statement.
“The paper at the time was following the custom and practice of the day.
“We acknowledge and apologise for the hurt and suffering that reporting caused. It would never happen today.
“We have made contact with representatives of the 78ers so we can apologise in person.”
The Star Observer has contacted members of the 78ers for comment.
At the time of print, NSW Police have yet to indicate if they will also offer an apology to the 78ers.