In photos: Sydney celebrates Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
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In photos: Sydney celebrates Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

SYDNEY Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras was celebrated on Saturday night, attracting some 300,000 spectators to watch 12,300 participants in a record-breaking parade.

A milestone year – marking the parade’s 40th anniversary and the first event since Australia legalised gay marriage last year – organisers said the turnout was the largest to date, making it the “world’s biggest celebration of the LGBTQI community”.

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Members of staff from the Sydney Opera House participate in a dress rehearsal in central Sydney, Australia, March 2, 2018, as part of preparations for their participation in the 40th anniversary of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade on March 3. Source: Reuters/Steven Saphore

“The participation of every single person in this year’s special anniversary Parade helped produce a dazzling display of self-expression, reflection and celebration. In its fourth decade, this was our most iconic Parade yet and one that will go down in history,” said the Mardi Gras CEO Terese Casu in a statement.

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A participant wearing a costume prepares for the 40th anniversary of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade in central Sydney, Australia, March 3, 2018. Source: Reuters/David Gray

SEE ALSO: ‘Huge step forward’: First gay marriages take place in Australia

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A participant wears a shirt bearing a message regarding same-sex marriage as he prepares for the 40th anniversary of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade in central Sydney, Australia, March 3, 2018. Source: Reuters/David Gray

The parade consisted of 200 floats and groups of street dancers and was headed by Dykes on Bikes, a motorcycle club.

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Source: Reuters/David Gray

“Beyond the glitter, flamboyance and satire, there were so many floats reminding us of the serious issues. Acceptance, inclusivity, diversity, respect,” said Casu.

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Source: Reuters/David Gray

Those involved in the original event on June 24, 1978 were honoured in 2018. Having conduced a peaceful march for gay rights, it was then marred police brutality with 53 people arrested in subsequent scuffles.

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The 78ers float at Mardi Gras 2018. Source: Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

Police have since apologised for the events of 1978 and now march each year in the parade alongside other emergency services.

Bruce Pollack, a Mardi Gras volunteer since 1984, said the parade has played a major role in changing attitudes toward the LGBT community over the decades.

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Participants hold banners regarding same-sex marriage during the 40th anniversary of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade in central Sydney, Australia March 3, 2018. Source: Reuters/Steven Saphore

“I was involved in the gay and lesbian counseling service … you would always hear young gays, and older gays, and much older gays say ‘it’s OK to come out because I saw people like me in the parade enjoying themselves – and there were spectators’,” Pollack told Reuters.

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Source: Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

“It was Mardi Gras that made it OK to be gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender.”

Activists calling themselves the “Department of Homo Affairs” unfurled a banner reading “Turn back the float. Justice for refugees” and stopped the ruling Liberal Party’s float, in protest over the government’s asylum seeker policies.

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A group of activists calling themselves the Department of Homo Affairs stopped the float of the ruling Liberal Party in protest over refugee policy. Source: Twitter / @AffairsHomo

SEE ALSO: Calls for updated sex education after Australia legalises gay marriage

But pop superstar Cher was the star of the show, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull posting a selfie with her on his Twitter account.

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Singer Cher reacts as she watches participants in the 40th anniversary of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade in central Sydney, Australia March 3, 2018. Source: Reuters/Steven Saphore

“I love that everybody is having such a good time and there’s no feeling of any kind of anger, there’s no negativity and that’s what I like most,” said Cher as quoted by The Australian.

“All the people with everything hanging out, and fabulous girls with their slap on and big hair and no clothes – I love it.”

Additional reporting from Reuters.