Brisbane celebrated its 27th annual Pride March on Saturday, the first in the city since same sex marriage was legalised in Australia late last year.
The march began in Fortitude Valley and moved down Brunswick Street for 2.3 kilometres to New Farm Park for the Brisbane Pride Fair Day.
Brisbane’s Pride March is one of Australia’s largest after Sydney’s Mardi Gras, and has always attracted tens of thousands of participants.
This year was no different, as people from a broad range of areas including universities, businesses, government agencies and the military joined the march to celebrate equality and love.
The Pride March began with a Welcome to Country and speeches from leaders within the LGBTQIA+ community as well as one from Premier Annastasia Palaszczuk.
The President of Brisbane Pride, Deere Hancock, gave the official recognition of marriage equality before the march began.
Motorcycle group Dykes on Bikes led the march and were followed by the Drag Queens of Brisbane, with the rest of the marchers following behind.
Police and event marshals helped guide the march down Brunswick Street.
Participants were supported by workers at many local shops, cafes and restaurants who draped their shopfronts in rainbow pride flags or dressed in rainbow colours.
Many people who live in the area also helped celebrate by holding signs offering support and giving hugs to marchers.
The only blemish on the march was the presence of picketers opposed to the festival and the LGBTIQA+ community.
The picketers hurled abuse and shouted Bible quotes at the marchers, but were ultimately overshadowed by the enthusiasm of the crowd.
Churches and other community groups also came out in force to support the march, some of whom apologised to the LGBTQIA+ community for the abuses and discrimination church groups had committed in the past.
Metropolitan Community Church pastor Alexander Pittaway, who attended the march, said his congregation apologised to the LGBTQIA+ community because it was the universal rule for Christians to repent, even if it was for other Christians.
“The church in general has done so much harm to the LGBTI community especially over the plebiscite in 2017,” Pastor Pittaway said.
“If we as MCC Brisbane want to reach out to the LGBTI community and let them know there is a church that accepts them fully, the first thing we need to do is address the immense hurt and pain the church in Australia has done to our community,” he said.
Pastor Pittaway said it was “an act of humility” and also an act that displayed the church’s immense love and concern for the LGBTI community.
“Those picketers were continuing the violence and the hatred and the hurt that the church in Australia has perpetuated against the LGBTI community,” he said.
“The police should have separated them from the marchers much earlier on to prevent a potential riot.”
“As such the church saw its responsibility to shield the LGBTI community from the hate preachers and we acted as human shields separating the hate picketers from the crowd.”
Pastor Pittaway said they were thankful no one was hurt at the march.
“We saw it as our mission to respond to the picketers with love not hate, and also to show the LGBTI community that the four or so picketers did not represent the true essence of Christianity, which is love for all people,” he said.
March participant Tony Srivashirapornchai, who is an international student from Thailand, said the march gave him a sense of belonging to a community that he could not find in his home country.
“Despite our differences, we are all humans, people are people,” Mr Srivashirapornchai said.
“The march gave me the sense of we are in this together and we are not alone,” he said.
“Also, seeing other international students attending this march is really empowering.”
“I see the welcoming and non-discriminatory vibes inviting everyone to be a part of this – inclusivity is really the key experience to this march.”
The University of Queensland, QUT and Griffith University marched under one banner for the first time as members of the Unified Universities contingent.
A spokesperson for the group said it was a unifying moment for all involved.
“It was a great opportunity for students to come together and see the LGBTIQA+ community [that] there is a place for them in higher education and in our community,” the spokesperson said.
“These people should be welcomed and celebrated.”