Thousands turn out for marriage rallies
Thousands of people including high-profile politicians and entertainers turned out over the weekend at rallies across the country for a National Day of Action for Marriage Equality, intensifying the pressure on Australia's leaders to support the introduction of same-sex marriage.
Simultaneous marches took place on Saturday, May 12 in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Canberra drawing Greens politicians Adam Bandt, Lee Rhiannon and Sarah Hanson-Young.
The estimated 7,000 protestors also included the likes of Faker singer Nathan Hudson and comedians Tom Ballard, Charlie Pickering, Claire Hooper as well as Magda Szubanski, who told the 4000-strong Melbourne rally that marriage rights were an important symbol in gaining wider community acceptance.
“As human beings we understand the importance of symbols. They mean something,” she said.
“They are rites of passage and they also express the way we are included in society. Or excluded.”
Greens MP Bandt, who has tabled one of the three marriage equality bills currently sitting before Federal Parliament, told the crowd outside Victoria’s State Library that US President Barack Obama’s personal shift on the issue was a sign that attitudes were changing around the world.
“If it’s good enough for the leader of the free world, it should be good enough for the leaders of the political parties in Australia,” Bandt said.
Pickering, host of The Project on Network Ten, said future generations of Australians would look back on the current situation with shame.
“If civil unions are enough (for same sex couples), then why don't we just ban marriage altogether?” he said.
Hudson told the 700 people gathered for the Brisbane rally that although he may never marry it should be a choice afforded to all human beings.
“I’m a human being and that's all that should matter,” he said.
In Sydney, about 1,500 people marched from Sydney Town Hall towards the gay mile of Oxford Street before arriving at Taylor Square to participate in a ceremony to ‘wed’ drag queen Paris and partner Danny.
Crowds chanted ‘Gay, straight, black or white – Marriage is a civil right”, while Ballard and Hooper both humourously shared their incredulity that same-sex marriage was not already legal.
“We need to laugh at this stuff and we need to call out for action,” Ballard said.
“Don’t tell me that Australia isn’t ready for this. This is a country that knows right from wrong ... In 2012 we can confront discrimination and assure marriage equality.”
Hooper said she was furious her friends could not marry their long-term partners.
“I married a Kiwi man who didn’t finish high school with no driver’s licence and it is absurd that the Australian Government would prefer that; than I marry some useful Australian woman.”
Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon said marriage equality laws would be reality if Labor followed their own policy to legislate for same-sex marriage as agreed by last year’s ALP National Conference.
“We would have the numbers if Labor were obliged to follow their own policy – remember that policy is now same-sex marriage,” Rhiannon said.
In Adelaide over 400 people attended the Equal Love rally which began at Parliament House before marching down Adelaide’s premier shopping district the Rundle Mall.
SA Greens MLC Tammy Franks, whose marriage equality bill is before State Parliament, restated it was now a matter of when same-sex marriage would be allowed, not if.
“Equal marriage is an idea whose time has come, only to be left ‘waiting at the altar’ by politicians still too nervous of a conservative minority to enact laws for equality,” she said.
“There is progress and there is hope. In our own state of South Australia it is pleasing that both Premier Jay Weatherill and the Leader of the Opposition, Isobel Redmond, publically support marriage equality.
“Sadly their federal counterparts still do not and remain heedless of the majority opinion in favour.”
The controversial Adelaide Street Church again gate crashed the event but were easily drowned out by the cheers of the crowd whilst the greater police presence helped maintain the peace.
A planned rally for Hobart was cancelled due to bad weather.
The day of action came as Attorney-General Nicola Roxon called on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to allow a conscience vote on the issue for all his MPs.
“The Labor Party, we will have a free vote,” Roxon said at a press conference.
“I call on the Liberal Party to provide a free vote ... and then what we’ll have is a true representation of elected members voting according to their conscience.”
Photo: Kathi Herrick
- Tags: Action, Adam Bandt, Adelaide, Barack Obama, Blaze, Brisbane, Charlie Pickering, Claire Hooper, Equal Love, Event, Greens, Law, Lee Rhiannon, Magda Szubanski, Marriage Equality, MCV, Melbourne, Nathan Hudson, Nicola Roxon, Politics, Protest, Queensland Pride, Rally, Same-Sex Marriage, Sarah Hanson-Young, SX, Sydney, Tammy Franks, Tom Ballard, Tony Abbott