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Melbourne rallies for same-sex marriage

THEY said love. They said pet. They said Julia. Speakers at Melbourne’s marriage equality demonstration, including beloved comic actress Magda Szubanski, proclaimed that opposition to gay marriage would soon be history - and so too the politicians who oppose it.

‘‘We’re here to try and change the law in terms of our equal rights, but the bottom line is these politicians will soon be irrelevant,’’ said Szubanski to raucous cheers from a crowd of about 4000 at the State Library.

‘‘This movement is about the forces of love, the forces of tolerance and a mature society that can accept difference and learn to live together . . . We will just evolve way past these politicians.’’

Protesters carried banners with messages to the prime minister including ‘‘Gillard, three words to stimulate the economy: Gay. Bridal. Registry’’.

Szubanski, who came out as ‘‘gay, gay, gay, gay’’ in February, said gay youths suicided at an alarming rate, and many Australians still lived in fear of revealing their sexuality. ‘‘I know if I was a teenager, and I had had the president of the United States coming out in favour of gay marriage, it would have changed my life absolutely,’’ she said.

President Barack Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage last week, forcing Prime Minister Julia Gillard to re-iterate her opposition. ‘‘My view’s not changing,’’ she told ABC radio. ‘‘I believe what I believe.’’
Greens MP Adam Bandt, whose bill for marriage equality will come before Federal Parliament later this year, called on the prime minister to follow President Obama’s lead.

Other speakers included comedian Tommy Little, who apologised ‘‘on behalf of the heteros’’, and broadcaster Charlie Pickering, who said the prime minister’s recent comments on gay issues was hypocritical.

Ms Gillard said this week the issue of youth suicide in the gay community: ‘‘You don’t have to face these
challenges alone.’’ However, Pickering said, ‘‘When asked to support a legislative change that would enfranchise some of the most alienated young members of our community, her disappointing response that she ‘still believes what she believes’ show just how alone you are in her eyes.’’

Young engaged couple Emma Smith and Sarah English, both 23-year-old students, said they feared their engagement was ‘‘indefinite’’ but were buoyed by Obama’s stance. ‘‘Australians glorify anything the US does. Clearly we still have a long way to go, but hopefully it helps.’’ Both women are former Labor voters but said they would vote Greens at the next Federal Election.