On Saturday, more than 8000 people across the country took part in the National Day of Action for same-sex marriage, with over 250 couples taking part in illegal gay weddings.
In Sydney the 1500 strong crowd gathered at Town Hall for speeches from Lord Mayor Clover Moore, actor Matt Young and journalist and author Katrina Fox. There was a real buzz on arrival, plenty of media, music from Technotronic and Aretha Franklin blaring from speakers, and a diverse crowd, some dressed in wedding dresses and veils, others in matching suits and ties.
The crowd then walked from Town Hall to Darling Harbour, where Labor’s National Conference was being held, chanting “Gay straight black white, marriage is a civil right” and “What do we want? same sex marriage! When do we want it? Now!” There was a speech from Greens MP Lee Rhiannon before Reverend Karl Hand from the Metropolitan Community Church presided over the group wedding ceremony.
In Melbourne, The Age reports that there were roses, wedding veils and even a three-tiered cake. 65 people took part in the mass wedding ceremony and almost 4000 gathered in Federation Square in central Melbourne for the Equal Love march. There were performances from pop singer Katie Underwood and vocal quartet The Nymphs.
In Brisbane hundreds gathered in Queen’s Park chanting “This is what democracy sounds like” and in Canberra there was a group of 100 people who assembled at Garema Place.
Marriage equality advocates are angry the ALP National Conference has failed to properly debate same-sex marriage, voting instead to keep marriage as only between a man and a woman.
Australian Marriage Equality spokesperson, Alex Greenwich, said in a statement “The ALP’s failure is deeply hurtful to same-sex partners, offensive to the majority of Australians who support same-sex marriage, and embarrassing to the entire nation at a time when even Albania is moving forward on this issue.”
Mr Greenwich said the ALP’s new policy for a national framework recognising personal relationships is no substitute for equality in marriage for same-sex couples, and actually highlights marriage discrimination.
“The ALP’s new policy effectively says all personal relationships will be recognised for all purposes, except same-sex couples still can’t marry.”
“Whether the new policy allows civil unions to have ceremonies or not is beside the point because civil unions entrench discrimination be giving same-sex relationships a second-best status.”
Mr Greenwich also rejected Attorney-General, Robert McClelland’s, view that the Federal Constitution prevents the Government from allowing same-sex marriages.
“The Rudd Government is using the Constitution as a smoke screen for its own prejudices and cowardice”, Mr Greenwich said.
The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby has expressed profound disappointment at the decision of the Australian Labor Party National Conference to keep the current definition of marriage, which explicitly excludes same-sex couples.
“The decision of the ALP national conference to continue discrimination in marriage law against same-sex couples is deeply disappointing for the gay and lesbian community. According to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the Australian Labor Party is a party of the future, built on the principles of fairness and inclusion. However, this decision shows that this fairness and inclusion does not extend to same-sex couples,” said Emily Gray, GLRL Co-Convenor.
A 2009 Galaxy Poll, conducted by Australian Marriage Equality, found that 60% of Australians support giving same-sex couples the right to marry. Australia is falling behind other comparable nations in formal relationship recognition. Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, South Africa and six US states grant the right to marry. The United Kingdom, New Zealand, Denmark, Switzerland, Finland and several other nations provide a civil union or registered partnership scheme.
Ms Gray concluded, “Same-sex couples have all the rights and responsibilities of married couples – but not the right to marry. There is no valid reason to continue this discrimination. It is time that all sides of politics caught up with community attitudes and makes a commitment to full equality.”
The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby is urging community members to make their voices heard in the current Senate Inquiry into same-sex marriage. The closing date is 28 August 2009.