Pride must be a protest: our vision for Mardi Gras

Since the historic marriage equality win in 2017, the Liberal Government has been bent on rolling back the rights of the queer community through legislative attacks such as the Religious Freedoms Bill. This bill amounts to a state legislated green tick of approval for bigotry, allowing service providers and employers to vilify, demean, harass, deny and outright fire queer people on the basis of ‘religious freedoms’.

Currently the Bill sits in inquiry, with plans to have it passed ahead of the upcoming Federal Election. No doubt it will be prominent on the agenda for the Liberal Party, a political football of sorts to whip their base. Such an attack on our community demands a suitable counter-response, and what better response than having our single biggest cultural organisation out in full force?

Unfortunately, Mardi Gras has fumbled the bag: in March last year they regressed as far as standing down (then) board member Charlie Murphy and current board member Alex Bouchet for alleged involvement in a protest against the Bill. More recently, the organisation has attempted to go against basic democracy, attempting and failing to shoehorn constitution changes that would deny the membership its ability to easily have its say on the issues that it cares about.

Fortunately, however, that undemocratic reform failed, and the membership can retains its voice. With the AGM in just a matter of days, Pride In Protest has put forward a slate of motions that encapsulate a greater vision of Mardi Gras—one that emphasises fighting to put the Bill to bed for good, fights for the rights of refugees, sex workers and the trans community, and kicks out the Liberal party and the cops to make it clear that bigots do not get a pass.

And by rights it should do all these things, because pride is for us, not for Qantas and American Express to pinkwash their brands while committing atrocities or financially discriminate against of sex workers, not for the thugs who bash our community to improve their appalling image, and definitely not for the Liberal Party who want to turn back time by (re)introducing state-sanctioned bigotry.

The right-wing of Mardi Gras doesn’t seem to think so fondly of our platform, and this year they’ve gone into full assault mode with a series of petty motions that highlight their contempt. These include advocating that Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras take Pride In Protest members to court over this year’s Mardi Gras Rally Protest; denying any member of activist groups Pride In Protest and Community Action for Rainbow Rights’ ability to participate in voting in Mardi Gras; and even a motion to expel former board director and current Pride In Protest member Charlie Murphy for ‘acting in a manner prejudicial to the company’—a baseless claim.

For a critique of these absurd and counter-productive motions, I refer you to Jacqualine Hardy. What does become crystal clear in reviewing them is the stark divide between the reactionary right’s vision for Mardi Gras and the left’s.

On the right, you have a Mardi Gras that will wilfully damage its soul beyond repute by going to legal war against a group of protestors, will stoop as low as segregating the left out of the organisation, will deny the membership its ability to express its voice, and will hunt a previous board director on completely unscrupulous grounds.

On the left, you have a Mardi Gras oriented around the community: fighting against the bigoted ‘Religious Freedoms Bill’, holding current sponsors to account for their awful track records, pushing ahead for landmark improvements to workplace rights for the transgender community, and continuing the fight for our most marginalised members.

A Mardi Gras that isn’t for the people isn’t a Mardi Gras at all. If you are a member, attend the AGM at 11am on Saturday, January 29 and have your say. Vote down the reactionary motions 1-5, and support a vision for Mardi Gras to be better than a corporate party. Now more than ever, we need a Mardi Gras that is run by the community and stands up for our rights.


Pride In Protest will be hosting the Mardi Gras Rally for a second year running during the daytime of the parade date. Join us on the 5th of March, with demands to stop the bigots’ bill, decriminalise sex work, demand transition leave, declare no pride in detention, and call for funds to services before police.

Image: Pride in Protest

Wei Thai-Haynes

Wei Thai-Haynes is a Pride In Protest member and Mardi Gras Board Director.

More by Wei Thai-Haynes ›

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