The Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported that while delegates voted at the Australian Labor Party's conference in Sydney to make support of gay marriage part of the party's platform, they inserted language allowing members of Parliament the option of voting against legislation expected to be introduced next year if it goes against their personal beliefs. Same-sex-marriage proponents worry that platform language could mean a bill could fail to pass, the network said.
"Unfortunately, we really wanted Labor to pick it up and go, 'we're going to run with this, this is our belief, we've debated it and this is the party platform,'" Anthony Wallace from the rights group Equal Love said.
About 5,000 people marched from Sydney's Hyde Park to Darling Harbor, chanting "conscience vote, no way, we want equal rights today."
"Never doubt how persistent the campaign for equality is," the BBC quoted Finance Minister Penny Wong, who is in a same-sex relationship, as saying.
The BBC reported Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, herself a Labor Party member, is against legalizing gay marriage and had the vote of conscience amendment added to the platform plank.
The British network said union leader Joe de Bruyn opposes widening the scope of marriage.
"The definition of marriage as set out in the legislation is that it is the union of one man and one woman, voluntarily entered into for life," he said. "It has always been that way since the dawn of humanity."
While Australia bans gay marriage nationwide, some states have legalized civil same-sex unions, the BBC said. Recent polls have indicated a majority of Australians favor allowing gay marriage, the BBC reported.