Thousands of people marched yesterday in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney as part of the National Day of Action, which marked the three year anniversary of gay marriage being outlawed.

The largest of the marches was in Melbourne, where more than 5,000 people attended. All the marches were peaceful.

Prime Minister John Howard’s Liberal government passed federal legislation in 2004 banning same-sex marriage.

Earlier this year he proposed that HIV positive immigrants should not be allowed into the country.

“We are not in favour of discrimination, but of course our views on the nature of marriage in our community are very well-known and they won’t be changing,” Mr Howard said in an interview with Sky television in June.

Mr Howard is due to stand for re-election at the end of this year.

Earlier this month, the federal government announced plans to prohibit gay couples adopting from abroad.

According to Generationq.net Kelly Nettle, Senator for New South Wales, said at yesterday’s demonstration in Sydney:

“We saw the ban on same sex marriage happen just before the federal election and three years later we hear the Prime Minister talking about trying to impose a ban on same sex adoptions from overseas, just before a federal election.

“It’s a clear pattern about the Prime Minister trying to garner votes from the conservative religious fundamentalists within the community and in doing so seeking to scapegoat a particular section within our community.”

Last week Prime Minister Howard was presented with a petition demanding an end to discrimination against same-sex couples.

An MP from his own party handed him a copy of the online petition, which has been signed by 25,000 people.

It follows a report released in June by Australia’s Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission which highlighted the 58 laws that need to be changed to grant gay, bisexual and lesbian Australians equal rights.

The commission’s report found that same-sex couples and families get fewer leave entitlements, less workers’ compensation, fewer tax concessions, fewer veterans’ entitlements, fewer health care subsidies, less superannuation and pay more for residential aged care than opposite-sex couples in the same circumstances.

The report traced this pervasive inequality back to how lesbian and gay couples are excluded from federal law’s definitions of couples, partners and spouses.

Last month The Attorney General of Australia, Philip Ruddock, told gay activists that he is working on proposals to bring before the country’s Cabinet.

Last week the main opposition leader, Kevin Rudd, announced that the Labour party would not support gay marriage if they formed the next government.