Tens of thousands watch uniformed military march in Auckland Pride parade

Tens of thousands watch uniformed military march in Auckland Pride parade

Tens of thousands turned out to watch members of the New Zealand military march in uniform for the first time in Saturday’s Auckland Pride parade.


It was the first time that Auckland had hosted an LGBT pride parade since 2001 when the city’s annual Hero Parade ceased due to lack of funding.


This year’s Auckland Pride parade followed the same route as the Hero Parade – along Ponsonby Street – and terminated in Victoria Park for a large public party.


Members of the New Zealand Defence Force’s Overwatch LGBT peer support network were given permission to march in their uniforms for the first time in an LGBT pride march anywhere in New Zealand this year and were a crowd favorite.


One of those who marched, Airforce squadron leader Stu Pearce, told Radio New Zealand that there had been a serious message behind their participation in the parade despite the carnival atmosphere.


‘It sends a strong message to those men and women within the Defense Force who are perhaps struggling with their identity,’ Pearce said.


‘They might feel that they’re isolated or alone.’


Members of both the country’s Labour and Greens parties also marched in the parade – including the Labour Party’s deputy leader, Grant Robertson.


Openly gay Greens MP Kevin Hague and lesbian Labour MP Louisa Wall were joined on the lead float by the US Ambassador to New Zealand, David Huebner, and his same-sex partner – and by reigning Mr Gay World and Aucklander Andy Derleth.


This year’s parade was made possible by funding from the city council and the Mayor of Auckland, Len Brown, has promised the event will return in 2014.