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Labor MP changes mind on marriage as Sydney marches for equality

Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby has announced he will vote for marriage equality on the same day that hundreds of LGBTs and their supporters marched in Sydney
The Sydney marchers chalking the road

Around 500 people participated in rallies and a march for marriage equality today in Sydney.

The marchers assembled next to Sydney’s town hall and then marched through the city past Hyde Park and up Oxford Street to assemble at Taylor Square where they used chalk to remark a ‘rainbow crossing’ which had been controversially removed by the New South Wales state government.

The marchers were accompanied by a police escort who allowed them to chalk the road.

Marchers had to quickly move to the side when two fire trucks with their sirens blaring needed to get through the crowd but police allowed the marchers back onto the road once the trucks were through.

A senior police officer praised the marchers following the rally telling organizers they had done ‘a good job.’

Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) co-convenor and rally organizer Cat Rose said she hoped that the march had focused attention on the issue.

‘This election is giving us a choice between two homophobes for PM,’ Rose said, referring to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition leader Tony Abbott – both of whom are opposed to same-sex marriage.

‘Politicians who can't bring themselves to treat us equally should just get out of parliament. Whether its the rejection of our rights in the Marriage Act or the removal of our rainbow crossing on Oxford St - politicians who stand against us should expect to have a fight on their hands."

The march came on the same day that Melbourne Ports Labor MP Michael Danby announced he would vote in favour of marriage equality if given the opportunity again.

Danby had previously said that while he supported the idea of marriage equality in principle he wouldn’t vote in favour of the reform until the opposition Liberal-National Coalition follows his party and allows a conscience vote on the issue.

As a result, Danby abstained from voting for a bill to legalize same-sex marriage which failed in the Australian Parliament last year.

‘We congratulate Mr Danby for making a clear commitment to voting for marriage equality, and urge other Labor members who have yet to vote for this reform to make a similar commitment,’ Australian Marriage Equality (AME) national director Rodney Croome, said.

‘The message Mr Danby's change of heart sends to other MPs is that support for marriage equality is not enough unless it is backed up with the willingness to vote for reform.’

Tony Pitman, spokesperson for lobby group, Melbourne Ports for Marriage Equality, said lobbying by voters had made the difference.

‘Gay and straight supporters of marriage equality in Melbourne Ports have made a compelling case to Mr Danby for the importance of this reform and I am pleased they have been heard.’

Earlier this morning on Melbourne radio station Joy FM Danby said that he believed that there were enough supporters of same-sex marriage on the Opposition benches to pass if they were given a free vote by Opposition leader Tony About.

‘When [marriage equality] comes up next time it will be closer and my vote may make the difference,’ Danby told Joy FM

Danby also said he was ‘very annoyed’ by recent comments from the Australian Christian Lobby comparing children raised by same-sex couples to the Stolen Generation of indigenous Australian children who had been taken from their families to be raised by white families right into the middle of the 20th century.

Danby's Liberal challenger in Melbourne Ports for elections in September is openly-gay candidate Kevin Eckendahl who is also a supporter of marriage equality and has promised to ‘always vote for reform’ on LGBT issues if elected.

Danby’s comments come just days after former Australian Prime Minister and current Labor backbencher Kevin Rudd announced he had changed his mind to support marriage equality and Liberal MP Wyatt Roy also backed the reform.

Melbourne Greens MP Adam Bandt, has proposed a vote on his marriage equality bill as soon as June 6.

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