Persecuted members of Sydney’s first Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras are set to receive a formal apology from the NSW Parliament, just a day after the Sydney Morning Herald apologised for naming them.
More than 500 activists descended on Darlinghurst in June 1978 in solidarity with New York’s Stonewall movement, while protesting the criminalisation of homosexual acts and discrimination against the community.
The movement ended in violence, ill-treatment and public shaming against the gay rights activists at the hands of the police, government and media.
Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith will introduce a motion of apology to ‘each and every one of the 78ers’ from the Legislative Assembly on Thursday. It is expected to pass with bipartisan support.
Mr Notley-Smith said the apology was for ‘the harm and distress the events of 1978 have had on them, and their families, and for the past discrimination and persecution of the LGBTIQ community’.
It follows an apology from The Sydney Morning Herald for publishing the names, addresses and occupations of many activists involved.
SMH editor apologises
SMH editor-in-chief Darren Goodsir issued a statement on Wednesday, one day before NSW Parliament’s official apology to the 78ers for the ill treatment they received at the hands of the police.
While the paper followed the standard practice at the time to include extensive details of those jailed, outing protesters in print caused many to lose jobs, family and friends.
‘We acknowledge and apologise for the hurt and suffering that reporting caused,’ Mr Goodsir said.
‘It would never happen today.’
Three days after the protest march ended in a showdown with police, the SMH published personal details of all 53 men and women who were arrested.
Sydney University academic and 78er Mark Gillespie remembers the price many activists paid for being outed in a major daily newspaper.
‘As a high school teacher working for the NSW Department of Education, coming out posed a major risk for me … it could mean the loss of my job,’ he wrote in an article for The Conversation.
‘Living a double life was a means of survival.’
Mr Goodsir has offered to meet members of the 78ers so he can personally apologise.