Is it right to un-invite Malcolm Turnbull from Mardi Gras?


Yesterday’s Annual General Meeting of Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras saw a motion put forward to officially un-invite Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull from next year’s celebrations.

Malcolm Turnbull made history in 2016 when he became the first sitting Prime Minister to attend Mardi Gras. Turnbull posed for selfie’s with spectators and participants and his appearance was a big news story.

The PM has been to Mardi Gras many times, it’s held in his electorate of Wentworth. This year many within his own party warned that he should not attend the queer celebration.

One anonymous MP told media outlets that it would be “dangerous” for the Prime Minister to attend, while another argued that he should never have attended in the past.

The PM shrugged off the threats and showed up. Labor leader Bill Shorten went one better though, he showed up and marched in the parade too.

In October Mardi Gras board member James Brechney spoke at a marriage rally and told the crowd that his personal opinion was that the Prime Minister should not get an invite in 2017.

Brechney was officially censured by the board over his comments, but at yesterday’s AGM other members of the organisation raised the issue and a motion was passed declaring that the Prime Minister should not receive an official invitation to Mardi Gras.

Is it the right thing to do?

The response so far to the suggestion has been mixed. Some nit-pickers have highlighted that the PM has not been ‘uninvited’ because he had not yet been formally ‘invited’ – so rather he’s being ‘not invited’. While others have argued that Turnbull is still welcome in a personal capacity, just not an official one.

Those hooked up on procedure have highlighted that the motion still needs to be approved by the Mardi Gras board, so technically it’s just a suggestion at this point.

Rising above the semantics, the message being put out by the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is that Malcolm Turnbull, a supporter of LGBTI rights and marriage equality, is not welcome.

Pride events are supposed to promote inclusiveness and promote greater understanding. Excluding people from LGBTIQ celebrations goes against the grain.

Yes, there is great frustration that the Prime Minister has contorted himself into a political deadlock on marriage equality. It’s a fair assessment to say Turnbull has traded his commitment to marriage equality in a deal to get the top job.

It’s astonishing a man of intelligence and character has be unable to find a way to get his party to line up on an issue which the vast majority of Australians support.

The LGBTIQ community should be inviting the Prime Minister to Mardi Gras and telling him about our disappointment and despair relating to his poor performance.

The Prime Minister should turn up and face the (disco) music.

The long fight for equal rights for LGBTIQ people makes it greatest advances when people who lack understanding about what its like to be same-sex attracted get to know real people.

Pride celebrations should be reaching out to the wider community and inviting them to experience gay culture, meet gay people and hear real stories.

The largest ever rally for marriage equality in Perth included speakers who were parents and grandparents, religious leaders and political activists. When the Western Australian Labor party convinced their members to support marriage equality the most powerful speaker was Mimah Comrie, who spoke as a mother of a gay son.

Real stories make the difference. Events which bring diverse people together make the difference.

Mardi Gras should invite the Prime Minister. They should encourage him to bring those of his colleagues who don’t understand or appreciate gay people. They should invite Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews, Eric Abetz, Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce too.

If the Prime Minister has been uninvited it is an unfortunate slight.

Graeme Watson

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