About 5000 people gathered in Melbourne at the weekend to join international acting royalty to end the ban on same-sex marriage in Australia.

Speaking alongside the cast of Waiting For Godot, Sir Ian McKellen told the crowd allowing gay marriage in Australia would earn worldwide respect.

“I’m thrilled to be in Melbourne today because the possibilities of what might come out of this rally are hugely important,” he said.

“Establishing the right of gay people to be married would cost the Australian Government nothing financially and it would gain for you worldwide respect from people like us and of course would change lives enormously.”

McKellen said the issue of allowing same-sex marriage was an issue of “principle”.

“We don’t know anything about the complications of federal … as opposed to state law, but what’s obvious to me is it’s a matter of principle here and that it’s a principle foreigners can have a say in,” he said.

Fellow actor Roger Rees said he and fellow Waiting for Godot cast member Matthew Kelly and director Sean Mathias were here to ask the “age-old question”.

“Why are we the bridesmaid, never the blushing bride?” Rees said.

“We’re walking with you and marching with you every step of the way.”

During the rally the Waiting for Godot cast presented Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young with a 100,000-signature petition in support of the cause.

Hanson-Young told Southern Star she intends to re-introduce her same-sex marriage bill, voted down earlier this year, after the election.

“It will be the first piece of legislation I table when we get back in the new parliament,” she said.

“Obviously the campaign is getting stronger and stronger and it’s a federal election year and people need to make sure they really challenge their local members and candidates.”

Victoria’s education minister, Bronwyn Pike, said same-sex marriage was an issue she felt “incredibly strongly” about.

“Everybody should be able to celebrate their love,” Pike told the crowd.

“I want to do everything I possibly can to try and change laws that discriminate against people.”

United Firefighters Union national secretary Peter Marshall said if politicians could make laws to stop discrimination in the workplace the same should apply to marriage.

“We need our politicians to have consistency in the laws and in Australia we do not discriminate — it’s un-Australian,” he said.

Rallies took place in capital cities across Australia, with the Sydney crowd treated to a video message of support from much-loved icon Dannii Minogue.

Organisers estimated the Melbourne rally turnout was about 5000-strong.

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