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Australian cardinal's lesbian cousin to lead gay Mardi Gras

Australian cardinal's lesbian cousin to lead gay Mardi Gras

The lesbian cousin of Australia's highest Catholic leader on Wednesday announced that she would lead Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade in protest of the church's mistreatment of gay men and lesbians, Agence France-Presse reports. Monica Hingston earlier this year called on her cousin, Cardinal George Pell, the archbishop of Sydney, to denounce the Vatican's strict opposition to same-sex couples. Hingston, a former nun, stepped up her campaign by deciding to act as chief of parade for Saturday's Mardi Gras, a massive street party that attracts up to 500,000 people to Sydney's Oxford Street gay district. "We want the church and the state authorities to listen to us to hear what we're saying about our second-class citizenship," she said. Hingston's comments came as Pell reaffirmed his long-standing condemnation of gays and lesbians in a magazine interview. Pell told the Bulletin newsmagazine he would take an even tougher stance against issues of morality, including sexuality, and he would not bless gays and lesbians. "I can bless them as persons," he said. "I can encourage them to do better in their weakness, but I cannot bless their wrongdoing, any more then I could bless my own wrongdoing." The Mardi Gras parade began in 1978 as a gay solidarity protest involving 1,000 people, about 50 of whom were arrested after clashes with police. It has become a colorful tourist draw, with more than 140 floats and 6,000 participants watched by hundreds of thousands of spectators. This year's event will attempt to break the world record for the number of people simultaneously dancing to the Village People song "YMCA." It is also expected to contain the usual array of floats satirizing religious and political themes.

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