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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 March 2008, 10:42 GMT
Sydney gay pride event turns 30
Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade - 1/3/08
The annual event is now a major attraction
Some 300,000 people have turned out in Sydney, Australia, for the 30th annual gay and lesbian Mardi Gras parade.

This year's parade is the largest ever, with 10,000 participants, including a military contingent, strutting their stuff in colourful costumes.

The event has become one of the largest gay pride festivals in the world and generates millions in tourism revenue.

Members of the original 1978 march, which ended in clashes with police and 50 arrests, are being honoured.

About 100 ministers and clergy will offer an apology for the treatment of gays and lesbians.

'Still difficult'

The event attracts people from around the world. Air New Zealand put on a special "pink flight" from San Francisco to Sydney.

As usual, the lesbian motorcycle group Dykes on Bikes began the procession up central Sydney's Oxford Street, followed by nearly 200 of the original "class of '78" or their partners.

For the first time, an official contingent from the Australian Defence Force is taking part.

While Sydney has embraced its gay community, not all of Australia has, said one of the 1978 marchers.

"It is still very difficult for young people in country towns to come out as lesbian or gay, and even in outer suburbs and regional centres," Diane Minnis told The Age newspaper.

The parade includes 150 themed floats, moving dance floors, drag queens and a host of scantily-clad revellers stretching for 4km.

The annual event has become one of the city's major tourist attractions.

But it is all a far cry from the inaugural fancy-dress gay pride march 30 years ago.

Back then male homosexuality was still illegal in New South Wales and the march ended with clashes with police and 50 arrests.

Now it is arguably the world's pre-eminent gay and lesbian celebration.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Mardi Gras parade parties along Sydney streets



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