Sydney explodes in Mardi Gras of celebration and protest at Australia’s ban on gay marriage

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Tens of thousands of people have marched through the streets at Sydney’s 34th gay Mardi Gras parade. The event was dubbed “Say Something” to protest at Australia’s federal ban on gay marriage.

Many of those marching were dressed as “brides” and “grooms”, in what is one of the largest and most significant LGBT pride events in the world.

The event comes just days after news broke that Australian prime minister Julia Gillard faces a backbench revolt by her Labor* party MPs over her opposition to a proposals by her coalition partner Green MPs who seek to end the national ban on gay marriage. Last year, the Green Party won a motion that called on MPs to ask their constituents how they really feel about gay marriage.

At the end of last year, a poll for Fairfax-Neilsen research found that 57 per cent of 1,400 were in favour of gay marriage, while a poll carried out for gay rights groups in October found that 62 per cent were in favour.

“We will be sending the message tonight that our love is no different and it shouldn’t be treated differently by the law,” Alex Greenwich, of Australian Marriage Equality, who marched today, told AFP.

Although the party she leads will debate its policy on gay marriage at party conference later this year, Ms Gillard has already stated her opposition to marriage equality, saying that she believes marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Ms Gillard was lampooned by one float which featured a giant replica of the prime minister, who has never married, in a wedding dress.

“When they said they were doing it for equality for marriage, I think I was more inclined to march,” Nicole Parker told AFP. “I’m gay myself and we don’t choose who we love. Everyone should have the opportunity to marry and have the same benefits as everybody else.”

Last year’s mardi gras witnessed three stabbings and 35 arrests.

* observes Australian English spellings of organisations