There were lots of flamboyantly dressed people, gay/lesbian couples with their children, bright rainbow colours, chanting, merchandising, a surprisingly good musical interlude, and lots of rousing speeches, including one by Adam Bandt (MP), who was incredibly well received (a politician who's willing to speak out on LGBT issues!). What really struck me was that as a straight person, I had turned up to lend my support, but I could just as easily have not turned up. It doesn't have to be my fight. For most of the people there though, it different. They were fighting for rights that I take for granted, rights that have never been, and are extremely unlikely to ever be challenged: the right to marry the person I love. I have the privilege of being able to ignore the issue, to drop it at any time as not my priority any more. I will not be treated as a second class citizen because of who I love. Not so for them. Sure they can drop the issue, but only at the cost of giving up on the hope of a recognition that their lives and choices are as valid as those of heterosexual people. That makes the involvement of straight allies all the more important.
There was a lot of anger in the speeches (and in the crowd) about the recent downgrading of civil unions in Queensland, and determination that nothing short of marriage would do, because anything short of marriage could be taken away again. Unfortunately, even the right to marriage, once granted, can still be revoked, as we saw in California, but I agree that the closer we as a society come to granting LGBT people full equality under the law, the harder it will be for society to push them back down again.
After the speeches, we were to go on a march. Before we were able to leave though, some clown decided that Sir Redmond Barry had something to say on the issue:
Having done a quick check into his history, I'm not convinced that he would have been on-side, but I don't suppose that really matters.
Once assigning a voice to the statue was achieved, we marched out from the State Library lawn, through the streets of Melbourne to the Old Treasury building. Initially, I felt pretty self-conscious, and the voices in my head were having a little argument. "People are going to see you here and think you're a lesbian." "So what if people think I'm a lesbian, there's nothing wrong with that." "Yes but I'm not a lesbian." "Get over yourself." After a little though, I was able to relax and enjoy shouting myself hoarse.
The final part of the day was a mass illegal wedding, presided over by Greg Reynolds, a dissident Catholic priest. He explained that the wedding, though not legally binding, was still real. He also took his role seriously, stating that while he was a Catholic, he understood that the people in front of him came from all faiths and none (the "and none" bit had me really excited and appreciative), and that it was important for the ceremony to be appropriate for everyone there. He proceeded to oversee precisely that, a simple, sweet and entirely secular ceremony - not a fair replacement for the legally recognised wedding that should be, but nevertheless an affirmation of love and commitment in front of thousands of witnesses.
The day was not quite as dramatic as I imagined it might be, and I definitely felt a bit of an outsider, surrounded by groups of flamboyant people who seemed to know each other. However, if necessary (and unfortunately, I suspect it will be necessary, equality won't happen that quickly), I will definitely be there to lend my support again.
Below are some more photos of the rally, mostly of signs: