The Mayor of Port Phillip has called on the wider community to reflect on the discrimination gay, lesbian and transgender people still feel ahead of this week’s 14th annual Pride March.
Recently elected Mayor Frank O’Connor launched the annual Pride March last week alongside Pride March Victoria President, Brett Hayhoe and Deputy Mayor Judith Klepner.
Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Victorian Deputy Premier and Attorney General Rob Hulls will send messages of support for the march.
-œIn the last 40 years [it’s] changed a lot, but prejudice against gays and lesbians persists -” you can still get bashed up for simply being who you are, Cr O’Connor said.
-œToo many gays, particularly young gays, still fear coming out of the closet. Too many suicide because the prospect of coming out or being found out is just too terrifying.
-œFor some individuals the Pride March can be a life-changing experience -“ the first time they have experienced being fully welcomed and accepted.
The international Pride March theme for 2009 is Your Rights, Our Rights. Human Rights.
This year will mark the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York in 1969, which involved a series of violent protests against police and is seen as the start of the modern gay rights movement.
The Melbourne order of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will bless this year’s parade. The order upholds vows to promulgate universal joy, expiate stigmatic guilt, and pledge loyalty to public service, social activism and spiritual enlightenment.
City of Port Phillip councillors and staff will march in their own group this year wearing pink t-shirts under a Port Phillip Proud banner.
-œSince 1995 the Pride March has continued to change lives and perceptions -“ not just of the people in the 100 plus groups which regularly participate -“ but of the tens of thousands who line Fitzroy St each year and the hundreds of thousands more who see it on TV or read about it, O’Connor said.
-œBack then, gays in Melbourne were able to get together at places like Pokies at the Prince of Wales Hotel in St Kilda, but out on the street they were vilified and bashed. Legally, they faced appalling discrimination.
Hayhoe applauded the State Government for leading the charge in introducing laws in Victoria to enhance the rights of gay and lesbian people, including the Relationships Register and the Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill.
He also called on the community to recognise the problems of queer communities around the globe who face far more dire circumstances.
-œIn some countries you can be jailed for two years for simply being in possession of a condom. There have been recent examples of men being jailed for finding out they’re HIV positive or simply for being homosexual, Hayhoe said.
-œThere is a constant need for all people around the world to continue fighting against unfair laws and fighting for equal human rights.
Town halls across Port Phillip council will fly the rainbow flag this week.

info: Pride March stats at 5pm (Assembly 3pm), Sunday February 1 on the corner of Lakeside Drive and Fitzroy St, St Kilda. Details: www.pridemarch.com.au

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