NSW MPs told to skip Mardi Gras until Equality Bill is passed

NSW Premier Chris Minns against a Mardi Gras Parade backdrop
Images: Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, NSW Government/Facebook

Frustrated LGBTQIA+ activists plan to rally in Sydney after NSW’s long-awaited Equality Bill was delayed, and have called on state MPs to skip Mardi Gras until they pass it.

The NSW parliament returned this week for the first sitting days of 2024. Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich’s omnibus Equality Bill was widely expected to go up for debate.

But it didn’t. State MPs now won’t get to consider the legislation until mid-March at the earliest.

Alex Greenwich introduced the wide-ranging bill last year, containing a raft of discrimination-busting amendments.

The reforms, if passed, would finally improve a range of NSW laws that are some of the worst in the country for LGBTQIA+ people.

This week, LGBTQIA+ activists slammed the bill’s no-show in parliament and accused NSW Labor of a lack of commitment to the package of reforms.

Sydney groups Pride in Protest and Queer Action Collective say MPs should skip Mardi Gras until they progress the Equality Bill.

“They’re assuming they can happily sleepwalk into Mardi Gras season and count on us for photo ops,” Quay-Quay from Queer Action Collective said.

“But we the queer community are showing them from today on, Pride is for us and you have to earn any of our goodwill.”

Reform birth certificates and ban conversion practices

On February 18, Pride in Protest will host a rally and march from Pride Square to the Mardi Gras Fair Day event at Victoria Park to call for the passage of the Equality Bill.

Introducing it last year, Alex Greenwich declared that New South Wales is “essentially last in the country” on LGBTIQA+ rights in numerous areas.

The MP said he was working with the New South Wales government on the overdue reforms.

For example, New South Wales still forces trans and gender-diverse folk to undergo surgery to update their birth certificates.

The state has not yet outlawed harmful gay and trans conversion practices either. Premier Chris Minns (pictured above) supports a ban and pledged to introduce the government’s own bill to do so early this year.

Pride in Protest said NSW Labor needs to also commit to passing the Equality Bill as a priority.

“Birth certificate reform must take place so trans people have no barriers in changing their legal sex,” Pride in Protest spokesperson Charlie Murphy said.

“NSW Labor have caved to religious bigots who are asking to be excluded from [the government’s conversion practices] ban.

“All forms of conversion therapy must end.”

‘Blatant discrimination’

The omnibus Equality Bill would also overturn contentious religious exemptions within the Anti-Discrimination Act.

Those exemptions permit faith-based service providers and schools to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

This week, Equality Australia called for “loopholes that allow blatant discrimination” to be removed, after state-contracted adoption provider Anglicare Sydney came under fire for its “disgraceful” policy on same-sex couples.

Religious organisations have told the NSW government that scrapping the existing exemptions would breach “religious freedom”.

Last year, the NSW government commissioned a NSW Law Reform Commission review of the Anti-Discrimination Act. That review is due to finish later this year.

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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