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Crowds turn out for final gay marriage push before election in Melbourne and Brisbane

Crowds turn out for final gay marriage push before election in Melbourne and Brisbane

Thousands of LGBTs and their allies marched and rallied in the state capitals of Queensland and Victoria on Saturday in the last protest actions in support of same-sex marriage that will be held in Brisbane and Melbourne before Australian voters go to the polls.

Melbourne Greens MP Adam Bandt told protesters at the Melbourne rally that they should be proud of themselves for bringing the Australian public around to their way of thinking.

‘I want you to turn to the person beside you and pat them on the back because not only have you convinced the community, not only have you convinced commentators, but you’ve convinced the Prime Minister and pretty soon you’re going to convince the parliament,’ Bandt said.

‘To get things done we will need people who will continue to stand up no matter what.’

Bandt said he was disappointed with the major parties, with the ruling Labor Party not binding its members to support the reform despite marriage equality being in the party’s official platform and Labor leader Prime Minister Kevin Rudd saying he supports the issue – while Opposition leader Tony Abbott says his party room would only consider whether his Liberal-National Coalition would allow its MPs a conscience vote after the election.

‘Every Member of Parliament in my party will stand up and vote for what’s right, and that’s what everyone else needs to do as well,’ Bandt said.

Accompanying Bandt were two people in penguin costumes standing together as a couple – a symbol of same-sex attraction being natural.

The Labor candidate hoping to win Bandt’s seat back for her party, Cath Bowtell is also a same-sex marriage supporter and spoke at the rally.

Greens leader Senator Christine Milne continued the theme while speaking in Brisbane.

‘This ought not to be a conscience vote – this ought to be a vote on a matter of discrimination,’ Milne told the crowd.

‘We wouldn’t have a conscience vote on women’s equality … We wouldn’t be having conscience votes on any other form of equality – why is this a conscience issue?

‘In this country, we should not be discriminating against people on the basis of their sexuality, full stop.’

Milne said the next step in the fight for equality needed to be a cross party group in the Parliament working to build bipartisan reform.

‘We will campaign to make sure that there is a cross-party coalition of MPs across all political parties and that means we have to bring pressure to bear on Tony Abbott to allow a conscience vote for the Coalition,’ Milne said.

The demonstration took place within the boundaries of Liberal-National Party MP Teresa Gambaro’s electorate of Brisbane – who did not speak at the rally.

Gambaro has expressed her personal support for same-sex marriage but has not crossed the floor in parliament when the opportunity arose and will not say whether she would contradict her party’s line in future – though she says she will advocate for a conscience vote in her party room.

Labor candidate Fiona McNamara and Greens candidate Rachel Jacobs both used the rally to express their support for LGBT equality.

In the lead up to the rallies, Equal Love convener Ali Hogg said that people would keep taking to the streets until the issue was finally resolved.

‘Nine years is too long,’ Hogg said, ‘We shouldn’t still be fighting for this basic human right in 2013.

‘And while it’s great that the PM supports equality, we need a commitment that it will be made law, we need the ALP to follow through with their policy, and we need the Liberals to change their bigoted position.

‘The last nine years have shown we can’t rely on politicians in Canberra. We will keep hitting the streets until equal rights are law.’

Further protests are being held on 1 September in Sydney at midday at the Sydney Town Hall, and on the 7 September election day in Adelaide outside the state parliament at 1pm, and in Perth at 1pm in Stirling Gardens.