7th March 2009, 08:03 PM
Join Date: Feb 2009
Atheism at the Mardi Gras
Revellers work themselves into a leather, then party
* Caroline Marcus
* March 8, 2009 - 9:14PM
OLYMPIC diving gold medallist Matthew Mitcham led the biggest ever Mardi Gras last night as hundreds of thousands descended on Oxford Street to support Australia's gay community.
The mood may have been extravagant but the message of acceptance and equal rights carried by the 1978 street protest that preceded the modern parade remains strong.
Religious imagery was a popular theme, with groups dressed as bishops, angels, nuns and popes.
"I love a big lens," said one man who was dressed in a nun's habit when he spotted our photographer's camera.
Another man wearing a sheer lacy dress and knee-high socks carried a giant credit card with the words, "God's stimulus package", a play on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's financial assistance plan.
Mark Driscoll, 36, of Edgecliff, marched with the Surry Hillsong Group, who were parodying the homophobic attitude of the church. Mr Driscoll said the group "absolutely loves" to cause controversy.
Marchers carried signs saying "Keep religion out of the bedroom" and "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life".
It was the first time that Douche Kazan, 25, of Ashfield, participated in the parade, as part of Sydney Leather Pride - and he could not be prouder.
Mr Kazan happily posed for photographs with tourists before the parade. "I was not expecting this," he said of all the attention. "I've always wanted to do it.
"I love leather."
A crowd of 400,000 was expected to have attended the event, which this year carried a united theme to highlight the legal rights of gays and lesbians around the world.
Mardi Gras visitor Carson Kressley, star of How To Look Good Naked and Queer Eye For The Straight Guy cut a fine figure on Friday at Bondi Beach in budgie smugglers.