Nearly a thousand people marched for marriage equality in central Sydney on Sunday, with thousands more marching in other cities over the weekend.
Speakers at the rally included New South Wales (NSW) state Upper House Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, Australian Marriage Equality (AME) national convener Rodney Croome and Vietnam veteran and father to a gay son Jeff Thomas who has previously challenged the Australian Prime Minister and Opposition Leader to explain their opposition on live TV.
Thomas told the crowd about his journey out of the homophobia that had been instilled in him in the military that had begun after his son came out to him seven years ago.
‘I took the telephone and told my son that I loved him and that I support him and that I would look at my attitudes and change my ways,’ Thomas told a crowd to cheers.
‘[Today] the only thing that I don’t like about my son being gay is that he is not treated equally in his own bloody country.
‘Being gay is not a lifestyle choice … all the opposition to the gay community is based in fear, ignorance and prejudice.’
Faehrmann pointed to the success of a NSW Upper House motion directing Australia’s national parliament to legalize same-sex marriage in a state parliament where conservative parties held power as proof that progress could still be made in Australia on the issue.
‘You can rest assured that the Greens will continue to introduce marriage equality legislation in every single [state] parliament across this country until we win. And we will continue to do that at a federal level as well whether it is convenient for [other] political parties or not.
Faehrmann pointed to the formation of an LGBT working group in the NSW Parliament with members from the Greens, Labor, Liberals and Nationals parties to contrast the refusal of federal parliamentarians to pass legislation to solve the problem.
Protestors then took to the streets, marching from Sydney’s Town Hall to Taylor Square, with the crowd swelling as pedestrians joined in.
Half way up Oxford Street the march halted while two same-sex couples had a brief marriage ceremony conducted by a pastor from the Metropolitan Community Church.
After the march reached Taylor Square a forum on the future of the marriage equality movement in Australia was held at a nearby venue.
AME’s Rodney Croome told the room that he was ‘60 percent’ sure that his home state of Tasmania would legalize same-sex marriage in 2013 and 100 percent sure that an Australian state or territory would do so – which would make the issue real for mainstream Australians, while the legalization of it in the UK, France and New Zealand would further bring the issue home.
Croome said there were important lessons that could be learned from the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in more states during the US Presidential Election – particularly the benefits of involving religious supporters and telling personal stories about the families of same-sex couples.
A rally in Brisbane on Sunday saw a turnout of close to five hundred, while marches held the day before in Perth and Melbourne attracted hundreds more.