The seventh annual Pink Loerie Mardi Gras, now underway in the Western Cape town of Knysna, has hit the headlines following vocal opposition from some residents.

Led by Pastor Jerome Nel of the Garden Route Christian Centre, as well as members of the local Muslim Council, around 300 residents presented a petition to the town authorities last week in an attempt to stop the gay festival from taking place.

The residents have called on the town council and mayor to hold a referendum to let citizens decide whether to allow the event, or not, in Knysna.

“In Knysna, there is a rising tide of objections to the hosting of the Pink Loerie festival here. This is in no way aimed against the rights or dignity of gay people,” reads the petition.

The critics of the festival have also mounted an e-mail campaign threatening businesses that support the festival with a boycott.

The town council however affirmed that it is a person’s constitutional right to express his or her sexuality, although it conceded that the manner in which this is done is of importance.

It rejected the call for a referendum but said that it would conduct a “Public Perception Survey” among residents after this year’s event.

After meeting with Mayor Eleanore Bouw-Spies, the event’s organiser, Juan Lerm, said that the four day festival will go ahead as planned

He also said that marshals will clamp down on any lewd or inappropriate public behaviour or dress during the parade through the town’s main street on Saturday.

Complaints had been made about an eighty-year-old local who has apparently exposed his rear at the parade every year. The marshals will ensure that he will cover up this year, said Lerm.

The Pink Loerie Mardi Gras ends on Sunday 4 May.

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