Australia Premier Malcolm Turnbull blocked from attending Sydney Mardi Gras in same-sex marriage spat

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 November, 2016, 2:15pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 November, 2016, 9:56pm

Malcolm Turnbull, the first sitting prime minister to attend the Sydney Mardi Gras, has been blocked from attending next year’s parade as an official guest over his handling of marriage equality.

We cannot forget the history of Mardi Gras and the ongoing need to promote inclusion and deliver equality for all Australians
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

The Mardi Gras membership at their annual general meeting on Saturday passed a motion that Turnbull not be officially invited to the gay and lesbian parade in March 2017.

The motion read that the meeting “does not believe that a prime minister who denies us equality should be welcome as an official guest at our parade”.

It directed the Mardi Gras board to “issue a public statement as it applies to the current prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and the 2017 Mardi Gras parade”.

The move follows Turnbull’s statement that the Coalition government had “no plans” to advance marriage equality after a bill to run a plebiscite on the issue was defeated in the Senate last Monday.

Turnbull had previously supported a free parliamentary vote on marriage equality but abided by conservative demands in the Coalition to first run a plebiscite, which was non-binding on MPs.

Many LGBTI people and their supporters had raised concerns about the prospects of a divisive and hurtful campaign through a plebiscite. Some conservatives had argued that a popular vote was the only way the reform would gain legitimacy in the eyes of its opponents.

There was contention at the Mardi Gras meeting over whether Turnbull was in fact invited as an official guest when he attended for the first time as prime minister this year.

One member said that the chief executive of Mardi Gras, Terese Casu, in a heated exchange on the sidelines with board member James Brechney, claimed it was the SBS TV network that had invited Turnbull.

This prompted a derisive response in the room, “a sort of ‘boo, hiss’ type thing”, the attendee said. Turnbull had previously been a regular attendee at the parade as the local federal member. He wrote a message for the 2016 festival guide, in which he said “we cannot forget the history of Mardi Gras and the ongoing need to promote inclusion and deliver equality for all Australians”.