MELBOURNE’S Pride March on Sunday saw around 40,000 people head to St Kilda to celebrate Victoria’s LGBTI community, defying temperatures that reached almost 40 degrees.

The march down Fitzroy St saw the community represented at its most diverse, with around 5000 marching.

This year’s march had an overtly-political focus, featuring the launch of the new LGBTI-focused Australian Senate hopefuls the Australian Equality Party.

The march also saw an appearance by Sydney Liberal councillor and sister to the Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Christine Forster, who marched with fellow Liberal Party politicians.

IN PICTURES: Melbourne Pride March

Forster attended with her fiancee Virginia Edwards, and said the two expected a long engagement, having agreed to marry only in Australia. She said discussions about marriage equality were happening within the Liberal Party, and argued that that represented a big shift in the party’s attitudes.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay also marched for the first time, telling radio station 3AW today that the event had previously clashed with bushfire remembrance services.

Lay also said some members of Victoria Police had 1970s attitudes to homosexuality, admitting on air that being in the police force was “not always easy” for gay and lesbian officers.

Pride March Victoria President Matt Renwick told the Star Observer the event was a success despite the heat, assuaging concerns over the ongoing financial stability of the organisation.

This year, for the first time the march after party in Catani Gardens was co-run by local business and tourism organisations as well as Port Phillip Council.

“Considering the weather, I thought the crowd that turned up and stayed around until 7 o’clock in the gardens was sensational,” Renwick said.

“The marching groups, the number of people able to turn up, obviously they were down based on previous years, but still to see so many people marching was fantastic.

“I would imagine we’ll probably make a small profit out of the day… I think we’ve broken even down at Catani Gardens so that’s always good, and we made a bit of money at the Greyhound.”

Signs around St Kilda advising of road closures for pride march were defaced with homophobic graffiti telling people to “keep it in your closet” on Friday night. Although the signs were cleaned in time for the march the graffiti prompted community outrage, with some calling it a sad reminder of the march’s necessity.

The Victorian Labor Opposition also used the weekend of the march as an opportunity to announce new funding for Safe Schools Coalition Victoria if elected later this year, seeking to roll the program out across all government schools in the state.

The pledge mirrors the Victorian Government’s announcement at the beginning of the festival of new legislation allowing historical gay sex convictions to be expunged.

Pride March is the last major event as part of the Midsumma festival, closing out the three-week celebration of Victoria’s LGBTI culture.

IN PICTURES: Melbourne Pride March

 

 

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