A range of issues were raised at a post Sydney Mardi Gras Parade community discussion night organised by the Scarlet Alliance in Redfern tonight.

Concerns were raised that groups including the Scarlet Alliance and Poly Pride had been challenged over their LGBTI credentials as part of the application process this year and had to appeal initial decisions to move forward when they had not had such problems with similar entries the year prior despite no changes being made to the entry criteria.

However perhaps the most noise at the discussion centred around a decision to refuse an entry by members of the Raelian faith who had sought to place a float in the parade attacking homophobia in the Christian, Islamic and Jewish faiths.

The Raelian Church is a small religion founded in 1974 by the French sporting journalist Claude Vorilhon who changed his name to Rael after what he said was an extraterrestrial encounter in1973.

The Raelian float was to carry a banner with the word “homophobia” with a Christian cross, Star of David and Islamic Crescent in each of the O’s, along with a slogan exhorting people to leave those faiths.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras (SGLMG) board member Damon Hartley said the decision had been made out of respect for LGBTI supportive religious groups in the parade from those faiths – particularly Muslims Against Homophobia who were marching in the parade for only the second time this year.

Hartley said the decision had also been made in the light of comments by a person sent by the Raelian float team to speak to SGLMG chair Peter Urmson who had told him that float members intended to confront members of religious groups in the parade and challenge them about why they still belonged to those faiths.

When presented with that, Jarel, the representative of the Raelian float team at the discussion night, claimed that that person was not representative of the wider people involved in the float and said the SGLMG board should have investigated further before refusing them entry.

Jarel said that SGLMG should simply facilitate the parade, which should be run on the principle of complete freedom of expression, and said that floats that breached laws or caused offence should be matters for police or the courts to respond to, not parade organisers.

Complaints were also made about the process behind the decision to drop “gay and lesbian” from the name of the parade, while others questioned the need for the parade to make a profit or be organised by a company, suggesting it should go back to its roots and be organised like it had in its earliest years.

Following the discussion night, SGLMG will hold its own post parade debriefing and invited those at the discussion night to attend that, as well as to consider joining SGLMG’s new community engagement committee or send that committee their feedback.

The Star Observer will have further information on the discussion night in the print edition of next week’s paper.

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