The Mardi Gras Festival was launched on Saturday with a bold activist cry to match this year’s theme of Brave New Worlds.

New Mardi Gras chair Marcus Bourget recalled the event’s activist history and defended its ongoing influence for the gay and lesbian community.

To those that say Mardi Gras has lost its political edge, I say that we may not lobby politicians, but it is by your participation in our events that we remain a huge positive force for social change, he said.

Because we are not equal, and as long as we are not equal, we march -¦ to educate, to entertain, to share our stories, to demonstrate that our love is not a second-class love and it should never be allowed to be treated as such, whether by law, religious bigotry, prejudice or hatred.

A continuing cloud hangs over the future of the parade since Bourget announced the organisation was considering abandoning it for a smaller protest march as costs increased.

This year more than ever it is important to show your support for the parade, it’s a chance to show the Federal Government we will not let up until we have full equality, Bourget said.

It’s a chance to show the State that Mardi Gras is the hero event of the Sydney calendar, to stake our claim for proper funding.

It’s an opportunity to say no to the violence that has dominated our community in recent months. It’s an opportunity to say yes to understanding, yes to compassion, yes to acceptance, and yes to equality.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore and Julie McCrossin joined the call for greater equality for the gay and lesbian community, including amendments to 58 Federal laws, adoption and parenting rights, and removal of religious exemptions in NSW anti-discrimination laws.

Thirty years ago homosexuality was illegal, it was mentally ill and it was against God’s will. It was bad, mad and evil. It was a bad message to get, McCrossin said.

Well, we got decriminalisation, with this new Rudd Government we’ll get the 58. We got the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to say it wasn’t mental illness any more. When it comes to evil we still have a battle in the churches.

My brave new world is where I can choose marriage if I want -“ a proper marriage, not a civil union -“ but most excitingly, if I choose to have a faith community, those that wish to welcome us deviants are allowed to do so.

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