Australian military to march in Mardi Gras parade

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Members of the Australian Defence Forces will take part in the Sydney Mardi Gras parade for the first time this year.

Permission was granted by the Chief of the Defence Force earlier this month and 60 marchers, comprising servicemen and women and non-uniformed personnel, and a float, will participate in the world-famous parade on March 1st.

They have not been given permission to wear uniform. The ADF lifted its prohibition on gay, lesbian and bisexual people serving in 1992, eight years before the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force followed suit.

Chief Petty Officer Stuart O’Brien, who runs the Defence Gay and Lesbian Information Service, told the Sydney Star Observer that they would prioritise personnel returning from overseas deployment to take part.

The ADF contingent has been limited to 60 marchers by Mardi Gras organisers; more than 100 applied to take part.

“We were overwhelmed by numbers keen to march and get their faces out there, to show the rest of the defence force that we are here,” Chief Petty Officer O’Brien told the SSO.

“This is another major step to show the community that the Defence Force is a fair and inclusive workplace.

“I am honoured to represent Defence at this community event and prouder still of the Defence Force for showing the leadership in allowing us to do so.

“I am proud to be in the service and, with senior leadership acknowledging this, they know I will shine a good light on Australia.”

All three branches of the services took part in Pride London last summer.

The Royal Navy permitted uniform to be worn on the Pride march but not at the rally in Trafalgar Square.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, the Chief of the Air Staff, allowed Royal Air Force LGB airmen and women to attend Pride but not in uniform.

The Chief of the General Staff banned LGB British Army staff from marching in uniform at the event.

General Sir Richard Dannatt was said to be concerned with a possible breach of the Queen’s Regulations, which bar military personnel from taking part in political activities.

The Royal Navy, which is a member of the Stonewall Diversity Champions scheme, allow sailors to march in uniform at Pride and use it as a recruitment opportunity.

125 servicemen and women took part – 50 from the Royal Navy, 50 from the RAF and 25 from the Army.