A Sydney newspaper has apologised to the founders of the city’s Pride parade – because of its overtly homophobic coverage at the time.

Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras began back in 1978, while homosexuality was still a crime in New South Wales.

As part of the very first march, more than a thousand people gathered in the city centre, calling for the end to anti-gay laws, the end of discrimination in employment and housing, and an end to police harassment.

Though organisers had obtained permission from the police to hold the rally, it was revoked and the police brutally broke dispersed the march, arresting 53 marchers.

At the time, the Sydney Morning Herald published the names of those arrested in full – which ‘outed’ many of them to their friends, families and employers, with many losing their jobs or facing ostracization.

Nearly 40 years later, the newspaper issued an official apology for its actions this week.

Darren Goodsir, editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald, said: “In 1978, The Sydney Morning Herald reported the names, addresses and professions of people arrested during public protests to advance gay rights.

“The paper at the time was following the custom and practice of the day.

“We acknowledge and apologise for the hurt and suffering that reporting caused. It would never happen today.”

He added that Fairfax Media – the newspaper’s owners – has made contact with representatives of the original marchers to make an apology in person.

Steve Warren, who marched in the original parade, said the apology had “been a long time coming”.

He said: “We’re quite excited that the Herald is joining in, it means a lot to the 78ers.

“We understand it was practice at the time but it caused a lot of hurt. Some 78ers lost jobs, lost family contact and, over the years, some even committed suicide.”

It comes after MPs confirmed a planned apology on behalf of the state for the treatment of people at the first Sydney Mardi Gras in 1978.

Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith said the apology would “acknowledge the significance of the events of that [first Mardi Gras] in June 38 years ago; the struggles and harm caused to the many who took part in the demonstration and march, both on that night and in the weeks, months and years to follow”.

“Many 78ers are no longer with us; many have lived a life of hurt and pain, and many took their own lives. This apology is for all of them.”

Homosexuality was decriminalised in New South Wales in 1984.