SYDNEY, Australia - On Sunday, days ahead of a postal survey that has left the country divided in opinion, Australia witnessed, what organizers are calling the largest gay rights demonstration in the country’s history.
The gay rights demonstration saw about 30,000 people from all walks of life - many clad in rainbow colors - gathering in the heart of Sydney, urging the legalization of same-sex marriage days before the contentious vote is cast.
The rally that started at Town Hall, snaked through Sydney streets to the harbour and even saw a marching band playing pop songs at Elizabeth Street.
Participants held up signs reading, 27 anniversaries and still no ring; Surprise! I'm human too; I want my mother to have the right to plan my wedding; I will not go quietly back to the 1950s; I'm here to find a wife for my daughter; If Shorten was PM, we could be at brunch right now; Equality is fabulous; and others that simply said ‘Yes.’
Cat Rose from Community Action Against Homophobia said, “We’re blown away by the response. The force we’ve shown today puts us in a good stead to win this battle over the next couple of months.”
The rally comes a month after a similar rally was held in Melbourne, which organizers said was attended by 15,000 people.
Australia currently is one of the only developed English-speaking countries that has not legalized same-sex marriage.
The law however, has strong popular support and the backing of a majority of lawmakers.
In the non-binding postal ballot being sent to millions of households across the country this week, a “yes” vote is expected to lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage.
However, this, experts believe with further fracture the government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Officials have said that the ballots will be mailed out from September 12 and a result is expected sometime in November.
Addressing the rally, the country’s Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, apologized and then said it was the law that had to change, not the gay community.
He said, “I’m sorry that the Parliament has not already resolved this matter. I'm sorry for all of the hurtful and stupid things which have been said and are going to be said until we win marriage equality. I'm sorry to all LBGTIQ Australians because we have one more mountain to climb, but we will climb it together, today.”
Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek's meanwhile said she was there for young people who may be in turmoil over their sexuality and identity.
Adding, “It's not just about the love between two people, it's about the love that everyone in this crowd has for every other Australian. I've got constituents of mine who have been together for 60 years – they deserve to get married if they want to."
Meanwhile, addressing a gathering of the Liberal and National parties’ faithful on Sunday, Turnbull said he will be voting in support of same-sex marriage and said that the issue was one where everyone is entitled to an opinion.
The Prime Minister added, “Many people will vote ‘yes’, as I will, because they believe the right to marry is a conservative ideal as much as any other principle.”
However, Turnbull’s statement came in contrast to the one made by his party’s previous leader and former prime minister John Howard, who officially launched the ‘no’ campaign on Saturday.
In a statement posted on the website of the Coalition for Marriage, Howard said that there could not be changes to social institutions without wider consequences.
He added, “I believe there is a conflict here between those seeking the right for same-sex marriage and the rights of the child, and I believe the right of the child to have a mother and father should be preserved.”
The Coalition for Marriage which includes the Australian Christian Lobby and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia is the lead campaigner against same-sex marriage and has not made any official statement so far.
Meanwhile, the former chief of the Australian Medical Association and a ‘yes’ campaigner Kerryn Phelps, said the survey was about unifying the nation.
She added, “What we want is to see Australians united in marriage equality and united in fairness for all Australians.”