At least eight same-sex couples said “I do” in a mass illegal wedding ceremony on the steps of Melbourne's Old Treasury Building on August 11.
More than 3000 people attended Equal Love's annual mass protest in the Melbourne CBD.
The protest, which began with a rally at the State Library, was part of a series of actions held in cities across Australia. It has been an annual event since the former John Howard government changed the Marriage Act to say that marriage is an institution between a man and a woman.
“The dam is about to burst,” said Adam Bandt, federal Greens MP for Melbourne. He urged the crowd to contact their MP about three pending marriage equality bills in Parliament.
The Senate bill, introduced by the Greens' Sarah Hanson-Young, seeks to remove all discriminatory references from the Marriage Act to allow all people the opportunity to marry. A second House of Representatives bill has been put forward by Bandt and independent Andrew Wilkie.
Doug Pollard from JOY FM told that rally that the legislation would mean that “no one will be able to stuff us in a closet again” while Ryan Hsu from the National Tertiary Education Union said parliament had “blood on its hands” given the high gay suicide rate.
On a lighter note, prizes were awarded for best placard on the day. Colourful placards ranged from “It's legal in New York” to “How long are we going to have to continue this shit?” Top prize was given to a sign that said: “We cantaloupe.”
Michael Ross performed “Equal Love”, a catchy song he wrote about the political history of the marriage equality act.
After the rally, protesters marched through the CBD to the Old Treasury Building for a mass illegal wedding ceremony conducted by Father Greg Reynolds. He reminded the crowd he was a “real priest performing the ceremony on real couples”.
Not all religious leaders agree with Father Reynolds' actions. Sale Bishop Christopher Prowse, one of six Catholic bishops who signed an anti-gay marriage letter in March, said in a telephone interview that male-female marriage is “part of the natural order”.
Indeed, sentiment about equal marriage is strong on both sides of the issue. In a recent Australian Christian Lobby webcast, former deputy Prime Minister John Anderson said: “I believe there are very powerful public policy reasons why we should be defending marriage over and above the reasons derived from our beliefs.”
But Australian Marriage Equality says that the majority of Australians disagree with Anderson. A new Galaxy poll released last week showed support for marriage equality was at its highest ever level — 64%.
Equal Love plans to continue to hold rallies until same-sex marriage is legalised at the federal level.