An enthusiastic inner city rally spurred by calls for civil disobedience, and a mass planting of pink hearts together drew an estimated crowd of more than 1,000 to mark the first anniversary of the national same-sex marriage ban in Sydney on Saturday.

As activists in other capital cities protested on a coordinated National Day of Action, more than 700 people gathered at Taylor Square to hear speakers including former Australian Medical Association national president Dr Kerryn Phelps and federal Greens senator Kerry Nettle kick off a Relationship Equality Rally.

Phelps urged an enthusiastic audience to embark on a campaign of civil disobedience in the face of ongoing relationship inequality, before a peaceful march along Oxford Street to Hyde Park.

The most powerful weapon we have is civil disobedience, Phelps, who married her partner Jackie Stricker in the United States eight years ago, told the crowd.

She encouraged people in same-sex relationships to use the language of marriage in official documentation and day-to-day life.

Refer to your in-laws in the same terms as you would if our marriages were legally recognised. I don’t need John Howard’s permission and neither do you, Phelps said.

Nettle recalled the day federal parliament voted for the same-sex marriage ban, describing it as a victory for hatred over love.

We need to -¦ make sure that we remove that hatred from our law, Nettle said.

Near Hyde Park’s Archibald Fountain, the rally heard from speakers including Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore, federal ALP member for Sydney Tanya Plibersek and Vicki Harding, author of the Learn To Include children’s books that feature same-sex-parented families.

Moore derided John Howard’s claim last year’s federal ban protected marriage.

If marriage is under threat, it has nothing to do with the gay and lesbian demand for equality, she said.

Moore also underlined recent gains made in NSW gay and lesbian law reform, but later told Sydney Star Observer further progress seemed unlikely before the next state election, scheduled for March 2007.

I don’t think it looks hopeful, Moore said of the prospects of LGBT legislative reforms under new premier Morris Iemma before the next state poll.

I don’t think they have what you’d call a progressive approach.

[But] it doesn’t mean that you don’t keep talking about these things and keep putting them up.

Rally organiser Peter Furness, from Australian Marriage Equality, told the Star he was pleased with the turnout but pressure had to be maintained.

Really it is an ongoing campaign, Furness said.

We need to put pressures on MPs, particularly those who represent gay electorates.

Earlier on Saturday protesters planted 1,000 pink hearts in Victoria Park in Camperdown to symbolise the push for relationship equality.

Among those to plant hearts at the event organised by the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, ACON and New Mardi Gras were Clover Moore, Tanya Plibersek and SBS TV presenter Anton Enus.

The feedback we have had is that people really felt they could contribute to the campaign and be part of the campaign by planting a heart, Lobby co-convenor David Scamell told the Star.

I think it did send quite a strong celebratory message.

The Sydney events came as activists in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Hobart staged their own National Day of Action protests on Saturday.

LGBT protesters in the Tasmanian capital held two mock same-sex weddings in front of the state’s parliament house to highlight the need for relationship reform.

Today’s wedding highlights the love and commitment in same-sex relationships and the need for them to be treated equally by the law and society, Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesperson Jen Van Achteren said.

An edited version of Kerryn Phelps’s Relationship Equality Rally speech is available by clicking here


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