Rain failed to dampen the spirits of tens of thousands of spectators and marchers who turned out for Sydney’s annual gay rights Mardi Gras parade, organizers said on Saturday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his anti-gay laws were the focus of several floats in this year’s march, which saw 10,000 participants and 144 entries wind their way through central Sydney, including a giant sinister-looking puppet of the Russian leader.
Rain soaked the city for much of Saturday, but skies cleared as the 36th annual parade got underway with the traditional “Dykes on Bikes” motorcycle group.
“Once again the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade has made its way through the streets of Sydney with flair, and celebrated safely,” assistant police commissioner Alan Clarke said. “Despite the rain most people maintained a positive attitude and celebratory spirit.”
Australia’s defense forces, police and firefighters all sent contingents to march in uniform, and the surf lifesavers were a crowd favorite in their swimming trunks and caps.
Organizers estimate that about 400kg of glitter went into Saturday night’s festivities.
South Asian gay rights group Trikone demonstrated against India’s colonial-era gay sex ban on a float themed: “Proud as a Peacock.” There was also a WikiLeaks entry calling for the liberation of transgender US whistle-blower Chelsea Manning.
“There’s room for very serious political comment in Mardi Gras,” Sydney Mayor Clover Moore said. “This is a global event, the biggest of its kind in the world, and it’s good to make those statements.”
There was the usual fare of drag queens, Asian marching boys and religious groups calling for greater tolerance, including a float of Christian ministers and pastors, as well as school groups.
All of Australia’s major political parties were represented, with a number of MPs marching in the parade including Australian Labor Senator Penny Wong, who has a daughter with her female partner.
She called for legalization of same-sex marriage — a common theme among this year’s floats as Australia marks 10 years since law reform which explicitly restricted marriage to between a man and woman.
“Mardi Gras is an affirmation, not only for those of us who are confident enough to march, but also for those still coming to terms with their sexuality,” Wong said. “Political leaders need to take up the fight against homophobia and discrimination.”