By Alison Bevege
SYDNEY (Reuters) - American rap artist Macklemore performed a gay anthem at a rugby league final in Sydney on Sunday, thanks to the sport's bosses rejecting pressure from opponents of same-sex marriage as Australia votes on liberalizing its marriage laws.
Macklemore sang "Same Love" to more than 80,000 fans of a sport traditionally associated with macho values, as the North Queensland Cowboys took on the Melbourne Storm in the National Rugby League Grand Final.
Fans respectfully waved electric candles as rainbow colored smoke rose above the stage during the performance.
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NRL bosses resisted pressure last week to stop the song despite a petition signed by just over 18,000 people calling for the performance to be banned.
Instead, the song promoting gay rights rose to number one on the Australian iTunes chart where it remained ahead of the match on Sunday.
Macklemore pledged on Friday to donate proceeds from the Australian sales of the song to help the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage.
After becoming the third major American celebrity to weigh in on the debate, the singer from Seattle, Washington, said music had the power to help people talk about the issue.
"I want to donate my portion of the proceeds from Same Love that I get off of that record here in Australia to voting YES," Macklemore said in a Channel Nine interview posted on his twitter feed on Saturday.
Australians began voting last month in a non-binding poll, conducted by post, to inform the Government on whether to become the 25th nation to permit same-sex marriage. The results of the poll will be declared on Nov. 15.
Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman said he was surprised Australia didn't have marriage equality yet, in an interview with NewsLtd's online service news.com.au published on Saturday.
US pop star Meghan Trainor entered the fray in August after her image was used without her permission to urge Australians to vote against legalizing same-sex marriage.
"I support marriage equality. Someone in Australia is illegally using my picture for a campaign against marriage equality. So wrong. Not okay," Trainor tweeted.
The debate has divided the nation of 24 million people along religious and generational lines and at times has threatened to turn nasty, prompting parliament to strengthen laws preventing hate-speech.
(Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)