Australia's government has voted in favor of recognizing gay and lesbian unions but stopped short of endorsing gay marriage, the AFP reported.

Labour Party leaders voted on Saturday on a watered-down resolution calling for the legalization of gay marriage in the former British colony.

The amended resolution calls for the development of a system that parallels marriage for gay couples, but is not a law. It is being compared to Vermont's now-scrapped civil union law. Vermont legalized gay marriage this year, leaving Australians hopeful that recognition of gay unions will lead to the eventual legalization of gay marriage.

Thousands of gay marriage supporters took to the streets to protest the move. About 2,000 marched in Sydney chanting “gay, straight, black or white, marriage is a civil right,” the New York Times reported.

“Of course, we are disappointed there has not been a movement forward on gay marriage,” activist Corey Irlam told the paper.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reiterated last week his long-standing opposition to granting gay men and lesbians the right to marry. Rudd's government, however, is credited for approving a raft of pro-gay legislation.

A majority of Australians (60%) support gay marriage, according to a recent poll.

The issue of gay marriage was a hot topic around the globe this week. Albania's prime minister announced on Thursday that his conservative right-wing party will introduce a gay marriage bill in the fall. Portugal's Constitutional Court refused to strike down the country's gay marriage ban on Friday. Advocates, however, called the split 3-2 decision indication that the country was moving in the right direction. And Portugal's prime minister has also promised to introduce a gay marriage bill if re-elected next month.