A sea of pink hearts outside Parliament House illustrates the hope that gay and lesbian Australians will be able to marry the person they love.
Those hopes and hearts, which have been planted in Sydney ground every August for the past 12 years, haven't yet faded.
But it was with a mixture of disappointment and frustration activists brought them to Canberra on Tuesday, a day after the Liberal Party formally decided to push ahead with a national vote on same-sex marriage.
"The pathway the government has laid out really just is a pathway to hate and harm," Rainbow Families spokeswoman Felicity Marlowe told AAP.
The Liberals decided to recommit legislation for a plebiscite to parliament and if, as widely expected, it fails opt for a non-compulsory postal plebiscite.
Ms Marlowe was sceptical marriage equality would actually be achieved by the end of the year.
"The number of hoops they're requiring our community and our families to jump through is too high - it's a huge acrobatic circus," she said.
During the 2015 Irish referendum on marriage equality, the idea that children needed a mother and father was at the forefront of the "no" campaign, she said.
"The plebiscite option creates opportunities to amplify the kind of hate speech and misinformed ideas people have about our families and our relationships.
"We don't want our families and particularly our children dragged into an ugly public debate."
NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby convenor Lauren Foy said there was "a solid bill" ready to go - the one drafted by Liberal senator Dean Smith based on last year's cross-party-endorsed Senate inquiry.
"It's incredibly disappointing because at the end of the day this is about people's lives, loves and families and that needs to be front and centre," she told AAP.
"Unfortunately, in this instance it seems like those people have been forgotten."