Early apprehension from Melbourne’s equal marriage campaigners about attracting crowds to last Saturday’s rally completely vanished with the event now hailed as one of the largest public displays of support for gay marriage in Australia’s history.
Melbourne mobilised the largest crowd across the country, with an estimated 5000 people turning out -” compared with 1500 in Sydney -” in cold weather and drizzle, to demand equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples across Australia.
Signaling a shift in wider public support, marchers filled Collins St with loud cheers of support and boos towards the Labor Party and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for refusing to concede any ground on federal civil unions or gay marriage during the party’s national conference over the weekend.
Initially gathering in Federation Square, the crowd was revved up by a host of speakers including Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, performers Supergirly and Katie Underwood, Amnesty International spokesman Tony Pitman, women’s rights activist Alison Thorne, Rainbow Families Council’s Felicity Marlowe, JOY broadcaster and Southern Star columnist Doug Pollard and Equal Love rally organisers Tim Wright, Martin Baldock and Meighen Katz.
-œI can’t believe Australia is so far behind the rest of the world on this, as support amongst the community grows. We can change things, we will change things, Hanson-Young told the crowd.
The rally concluded on the steps of the Old Treasury Building where 65 couples were illegally married under the enthusiastic gaze of thousands in the crowd.
Despite news from the ALP conference not looking bright for a turnaround, the rally mood was upbeat with Equal Love’s Tim Wright urging the community to keep up the fight and not accept same-sex relationships being treated as second rate.
-œWe’re here because we refuse to put up with our inequality any longer, we refuse to tolerate our government’s intolerance any longer and we will continue the fight for equal rights until they are ours, he shouted to rally-goers.
-œEvery time we demand equal rights we make our politicians look less and less rational.
-œWe here are part of a global movement for change. This here is the civil rights movement of our decade and we will not give up.
Rainbow Families Council convenor Felicity Marlowe said although many changes for equality had been made, children with same-sex parents had as much right to have their families recognised as heterosexual families.
-œFrankly Kevin, it’s just not good enough, she said.