For some time until 2017, conservative members of the Australian government repeatedly blocked attempts by the Opposition to introduce a marriage equality bill. A bill which would allow equal rights under the law to Australia's LGBTQI population.
In August 2017, a non-binding marriage equality postal survey announced with an estimated cost of $120M to the Australian tax payer. Despite the fact that free polls showed a huge majority of the population were in favour of marriage equality. The postal survey, sent to every registered voter in Australia was also non-binding on the government. Even if the results came back with a win for Yes, the government could still vote No in their own conscience vote.
The question on the survey was simple enough
"Should the law be changed to allow same sex people to marry: Yes or No"
Despite this, certain right wing political and media groups portrayed this as an attack on religious freedoms and instigated a campaign against marriage equality that was filled with hatred and lies. These community leaders took it upon themselves to spread lies and insults about the LGBTQI community that had nothing whatsoever to do with marriage equality. It was an extremely difficult time for a lot of people, especially the young and vulnerable who were just beginning to discover who they are. Homophobia, crime, vandalism, assault and abuse against the gay community became commonplace during the postal survey. Those in power, with the ability to stop the hatred and educate the homophobes turned a blind eye because they saw themselves as the victims. The truth is, the only people who would be affected by gay marriage are gay people. Finally, we would be considered as true equals.
This only made us stronger. The LGBTQI came together in a way never seen before in Australian history. Almost 40,000 people came together for a YES! Equality rally at Sydney Town Hall. Street parties, picnics and more rallies all across Australia. The sense of community, belonging, acceptance, the sense of pride. All of this showed all of Australia who we really are and that we will accept nothing less than Equality.
Wednesday November 15th, 10.00am. The results. I watched at my desk in my office, surrounded by my colleagues. The flood of emotions going through me was almost unbearable while waiting for the result. The polls showed it would be a win for Yes but still, anxiousness and nervousness were almost getting the better of me.
I needn't have worried. The Yes campaign won with 61.6% of 12,727,920 votes. A cheer went up all across the office and the country. I couldn't stop shaking as I held back tears. We did it.
Celebrations started immediately and are still continuing, although it's not quite over yet. The Prime Minister has ordered Parliament to sit until a marriage equality bill has been introduced, debated and approved. Right wing conservative ministers have already tried to introduce a bill loaded with discrimination, one that would wind back existing anti-discrimination laws and allow businesses and services to refuse service to gay people. It's already been shot down. There are more people of good will in Parliament than the so called religious right. These people have our backs and are now free to vote on a marriage bill that gives dignity and equality to all, not some.
On ya 'Straya.