Ballarat pro-gay marriage rally draws hundreds

SEVERAL hundred people marched through the streets of Ballarat yesterday in support of gay marriage in the city's first pro-gay marriage rally. The rally began at the Ballarat Skate Park on Main Rd before heading up Sturt St to the town hall.Rally organiser and spokesperson for the recently formed Regional No Discretion group, Koby Drake, has attended pro-gay marriage rallies in Melbourne."This is the first rally in rural Victoria. It is time to fight in our own backyards and not just in the big cities," Mr Drake said."We're fighting for equal rights not special rights."Attending the rally were several high-profile gay rights groups including The Equal Love Campaign.ELC publicity officer Ali Hogg said the Ballarat rally stemmed from the big rallies in the capital cities where organisers noticed many of the attendees were from regional areas where homophobia is more prevalent."It's not that young people are planning to get married anytime soon but it is an issue of equality," Ms Hogg said.According to Ms Hogg it is also about saving lives as suicide rates are higher for gay youths especially in rural areas."This year is a national year of action leading up to the federal election and we will be putting more pressure on the Government."Ballarat MHR Catherine King said the Labor Party went to the last election with an unambiguous position on marriage: that legally it's a union between a man and a woman."At the same time, the Government is currently working extremely hard to remove all legal discrimination against same-sex partners," Ms King said.Greens candidate for Ballarat Belinda Coates lent her support speaking at the rally."The Greens fully support gay marriage and human rights, and believe that everyone should be able to express their love and commitment in the same way," Ms Coates said."We think Kevin Rudd should say I do to gay marriage."Socialist Alliance local branch convenor Erin Cameron said with over 70 per cent of Australians supporting equal marriage rights the Government should make it available to everyone.

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