OVER the last couple of weeks I have read various commentaries around how relevant or irrelevant Mardi Gras has become. I have responded to many of these views based purely on my own experiences and feedback of what Mardi Gras does or doesn’t do, and what Mardi Gras stands for or shouldn’t stand for. Much of my response has focused on furthering the equality and inclusion agenda in Australia paralleled with the need for Mardi Gras to shine as a beacon of hope and diversity for the world.
Part of the accountability to at least try to ensure that tomorrow and the next day are better for our global community is reason enough to remain relevant, and continue to do so for many years to come.
In 2015 it is almost unfathomable that the LGBTQI community should need to stand up once again and claim its right to celebrate who we are and to legitimise our contribution to and inclusion in society as a whole.
However, with bans or restrictions on LGBTQI participation in one of the world’s largest St Patrick’s Day parades (for the second year in a row) taking place in New York, we find that unfortunately we once again see a pattern of history repeating itself — albeit in a much more subtle yet equally as discriminating way.
Mardi Gras’ visibility in Sydney’s St Patrick’s Day Parade sends an important message to the world and, in particular, the New York St Patrick’s Day committee.
The Sydney community will not stand by idly and watch as you discriminate and exclude our brothers and sisters simply for being who they are.
In addition to the recent events in New York, the Irish as a nation face a number of conflicting dilemmas. On May 22 the Republic of Ireland hopes to become the 18th country in the world to pass a referendum on full marriage equality.
Our involvement in the St Patrick’s Parade was an opportunity to applaud and support the progress that this small, Catholic-dominated state has made in recent years.
To the other extreme, however, the right wing unionists in Northern Ireland are pushing for a “conscience bill” that will allow businesses to discriminate against the LGBTQI community on the basis of religious or moral belief – effectively making it legal for businesses to act illegally. It is ludicrous to think that if I returned to Ireland I may easily get married in Dublin but may not be able to honeymoon at my preferred hotel in Belfast.
So, in short, participating in the Sydney St Patrick’s Day Parade was a lot of fun, especially for a proud and out Irishman, but the messaging of our contribution to this event is one of even greater significance.
To New York St Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, your reasons to exclude and restrict our community’s involvement in your parade, is blatant discrimination and homophobia at its worst. Shame on you.
On a Sydney Sunday morning in March the entire Irish community shone with us as a beacon of hope and diversity for the world and there is something New York can learn from that.
Ireland, on May 22 you will have your own opportunity to shine as a nation and make history in passing full marriage equality into law. Our contribution on Sunday demonstrates our support for your bipartisan commitment to instilling full equality through your landmark referendum. We send you and your supporters every good luck wish.
The proud and out Irish people who took part in the parade on Sunday would defy anyone to say it lacks relevance. Try telling that to a LGBTQI youth group refused entry to New York’s parade or to a loving couple of 30 years waiting in hope in Dublin for the state to legitimise and celebrate their love like any other heterosexual couple of similar status.
Often the little things in life can mean a lot.