Prime Minister Julia Gillard has declared that marriage rights for same-sex couples are incompatible with Australian culture and heritage one day after hundreds demanded their rights in Sydney and Brisbane.

“I do find myself on the conservative side in this question … because of the way our society is and how we got here,” Gillard told Sky News on Sunday.

“There are some important things from our past that need to continue to be part of our present and part of our future.”

When asked if she was expressing a personal view or what she thought Australians wanted to hear, Gillard said she would have said the same thing had she never entered politics, pitching herself as a social conservative.

“I had a pro-union pro-Labor upbringing in a quite conservative family in the sense of personal values,” Gillard said.

“If I was in a different walk of life, if I’d continued in the law and was a partner of a law firm now, I would express the same view.

“I think for our culture, for our heritage, the Marriage Act and marriage being between a man and a woman has a special status … I know that people might look at me and think that’s something that they wouldn’t necessarily expect me to say but that is what I believe.

“I’m on the record as saying things like I think it’s important that people understand their Bible stories. Not because I’m an advocate of religion — clearly I’m not — but once again, what comes from the Bible has formed such an important part of our culture.”

Only the day before crowds of around 400 gathered at the Sydney Town Hall before marching to Taylor Square and in Brisbane’s Queen Park.

In Sydney, speakers from New Mardi Gras, Australian Marriage Equality urged people to contact their MPs and lobby them directly, while Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann warned of the danger of a conservative-controlled Upper House after the NSW state election.

“The influence of people like Fred Nile and the Christian Democratic party may only get stronger after this election,” Faehrmann said.

“What we’re hearing is that not only will the Coalition probably win government but they may also win control of the Upper House with the support of the Christian Democratic Party and the Shooters and Fishers. The only way to stop that is to make sure that everyone you know votes progressive in the Upper House. That’s probably more important than what you do with your Lower House vote.”

Faehrmann and Sydney MP Clover Moore both pledged to introduce legislation to create marriage equality at a state level if the federal Government failed to act.

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