The New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSWGLRL) has covered the lawn of parliament with thousands of hearts to protest the marriage equality plebiscite that looks set to go ahead.

The paper hearts have been collected over 12 years of Mardi Gras with messages from LGBTI couples around Sydney.

Twelve years ago the NSWGLRL placed a number of pink cardboard hearts at Victoria Park in Camperdown, NSW, protesting against the then Government’s ban on marriage equality which was enacted a year earlier.

The campaign would be become known as the ‘Sea of Hearts’ and eventually serve as one of the most potent symbols of LGBTI activism and equality used by equal rights supporters in Sydney and around the world.

“It was a really hard night last night as we saw our campaign not have the result we wanted it to,” said GetUp spokesperson Sally Rugg in a live video on Facebook.

“But this morning, being gathered here with activists from all over the country and a thousand hearts it’s been a really beautiful morning.”

Jacqui Tomlins appeared in the video representing Rainbow Families Australia.

“We’ve been talking about this with our kids, and really, for them, they know what this means,” said Tomlins.

She said her eldest child had assured he would be able to cope if the plebiscite went ahead.

“I thought, crikey, he’s offering me reassurance that he can handle the plebiscite. That really brought it home to me. That’s what this is about and why we’re here.

“Our kids have access to as much information as they want. We can’t control that. So they have seen stuff and read stuff, and last year with Safe Schools… they know that the focus is on families and the very, very nasty negative stuff that is being said. They feel that very keenly.”

Tomlins said her biggest concern about the prospect of a postal plebiscite is that young people are unlikely to vote.

“It’s an insane idea,” she said, and joked that Australia could have a poll by Instagram.

According to the video, the Human Rights Law Centre and the Equality Campaign have announced they will launch a High Court case against a postal plebiscite, based on legal advice that it would be unconstitutional.

“We hope that will be a win for us, but obviously we won’t know until then,” said Tomlins.

Labor MP Terri Butler also appeared in the video.

“I think [the people who created the hearts] are probably feeling disappointed,” said Butler.

“I know a lot of people here are feeling disappointed. It was a disappointing afternoon yesterday.

“To think that the Liberal partyroom decided on this frankly ridiculous process of another parliamentary vote about a means to stop having a parliamentary vote, and then appropriation from the budget to spend money on having a great big letter-writing campaign… all of that before we even get to having a vote just seems ridiculous.”

Butler said people should still feel hopeful.

“We have come further than we ever have before,” she said, calling the marriage equality bill “great progress”.

“Having a bill to talk about, a bill that reflects a cross-party senate enquiry report, is progress,” she said.

“It’s far from enough,” Butler added.

“I want a free vote and I want to see marriage equality made a reality in this country.”

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