Several hundred protesters gathered in Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra at the weekend in rallies supporting same-sex marriage.

The attendance numbers were well down on previous years, which had attracted up to a thousand in each capital, but this year saw a surprising number of Labor Party members making a stand.

In Melbourne, Victorian education minister Bronwyn Pike broke ranks to declare her opposition to the national marriage policy.

I support same-sex marriage, I have for many, many years. I believe that a civilised society is a society that is inclusive and is a society that affords the same human rights, the same access to justice, the same equality under the law for every single one of its citizens, she said.

The Canberra rally, in very cold conditions, heard from former federal Labor staffer Mandy Sharplin and ACT union secretary Kim Sattler that attitudes in the community were shifting faster than the party they belonged to.

The Sydney rally marched from Taylor Square to Town Hall, and heard from MCC pastor Karl Hand, Greens Sydney Council candidate Irene Doutney, and Emily Gray and Peter Johnson from the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.

It was the fourth anniversary of the marriage ban, but I don’t think it’s self-defeating [to focus only on marriage]. The community needs to focus on a range of things, Gray told Sydney Star Observer.

Our priority is getting 58 in ’08, but we haven’t lost sight of the fact our community needs formal relationship recognition as well.

We need to ensure the Government and the Coalition follow through with their commitment to implement the recommendations of the HREOC report. Until that’s done, we won’t have de facto equality.

She said civil unions were perhaps more likely in the short term, but the Government needed to know that the relationship registers would not satisfy the community’s desire for more relationship recognition.

Melbourne’s organisers believed the low turnout may have been due to the raft of same-sex equality reforms the Victorian Government has introduced or promised, including a relationship register.

CAAH spokeswoman Rachel Evans told SSO she believed the close time proximity to the NoToPope protests may have contributed to the low turnout, as well as a false belief that the Rudd Government was doing enough to remove discrimination.

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