Sally Rugg: I can’t forget the trauma
I’m a big-picture kind of gal, and yet this one-year anniversary feels acutely painful. Every other day, I marvel at the sheer scale of the yes campaign. How millions of people from all walks of life harnessed their creativity and compassion to speak up for LGBTIQ Australians, making the largest, decentralised campaign in this country’s history. Most days I can see that big picture with the silver lining. Today I can’t. The LGBTIQ community begged the parliament to be spared a national vote on our rights. It was unnecessarily cruel and tangibly dangerous. We fought for parliament to block plebiscite legislation for a year, and won. When the government announced the postal survey, we took it to the high court in a desperate bid to protect our community. We lost. For many of us, the repercussions of the survey were too much. Legitimising questions of our worthiness and equality scratched an underbelly of anti-LGBTIQ hate and offered the loudest platforms to broadcast it. Australians were forced to pick a corner to fight from. Mental health services buckled with an influx of people in crisis. Many people I speak to today are still in counselling. Some of us didn’t survive to see the yes result come through. I’m a big-picture kind of gal, but I can’t forget this trauma. It lives in me and it lives within the people I love. We are scarred. Let’s celebrate, but let’s celebrate the couples who’ve finally married after decades of waiting. Let’s celebrate 7 December, when the law finally changed. Let’s celebrate for the rest of our lives the Australia that we created together – over decades, not weeks. And let’s remember what the anniversary of the survey result really means.
• Sally Rugg is an LGBTIQ activist and executive director of Change.org Australia
The postal survey was the result of political failure, the cause of great grief and isn’t what delivered marriage equality. Marriage equality should and could have been resolved by a free vote in parliament. Instead, the populist right sought to erect a wall of fear against change, Turnbull caved and the Equality Campaign equivocated. Only the opposition of the LGBTI community stopped a public vote, until the right found it could circumvent parliament with a postal survey. The ensuing battle infected the nation’s bloodstream with new strains of old hatreds – fears of “gender fluidity”, suppression of school inclusion programs and overreaching claims to “religious freedom”. There was deep trauma for many people. Postal survey boosters say it changed minds and won marriage equality. In truth, a decade of hard work by advocates and politicians, who are now barely remembered, won majority support for marriage equality in the community and parliament long before the postal survey was thought up. Yes, the survey saw many acts of courage. Take Baptist minister Ian Carmichael and factory manager Ray Mostogl, who both took a risk appearing in pro-equality Tasmanian television ads and who helped the island achieve a yes vote higher than any state but Victoria. But the histories written so far omit too many such brave Australians. The postal survey was an unnecessary, illegitimate path to equality. Pretending it was a transformative moment that delivered marriage equality gives future LGBTI campaigners a false impression of how real change actually happens.
• Rodney Croome is a spokesperson for just.equal and longtime LGBTI equality advocate
Anna Brown: Now there is no turning back
This anniversary comes with mixed feelings, with wounds that have only just begun to heal but also celebration and pride. In the face of an obscure process designed to diminish and degrade the worth of LGBTIQ people, Australians stood up in record numbers for their family, friends, neighbours, workmates and teammates. The reform of a conservative institution came to be viewed as a marker of our maturity and progress as a nation and became the signature civil rights issue of our time. It took 22 bills, countless parliamentary inquiries, multiple high court challenges, and a national plebiscite but we never gave up. Now there is no turning back. The vote last year has reset the political conversation between LGBTIQ people and our nation’s leaders in a profound and positive way. We now have an incredible opportunity to ensure all of our laws embrace LGBTIQ people just as the majority of Australians did last year, and an obligation to support and amplify the voices of some of the most vulnerable within the LGBTIQ community who bore the brunt of the no side’s misleading and harmful rhetoric. We need to say yes to equality for every aspect of LGBTIQ people’s lives.
• Anna Brown is the director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre and was the co-chair of Australian Marriage Equality
Alex Greenwich: The momentum is unstoppable
When it comes to marriage equality, Australians delivered the leadership that our federal parliament failed to. Although this frustrates many, it should also fill us with pride to know we can trust our fellow Australians to do the right thing and deliver on our shared commitment to a fairer and more equal society. The journey to marriage equality was a long one, longer than it should have been, but with every setback we grew stronger and empowered more and more Australians to take action. I spent over a decade campaigning for marriage equality and the best moments were seeing people engage in political process for the very first time. Nothing proved we would win like hearing about the mums and dads who met with their MP for the first time, the student who made their first submission to a parliamentary inquiry, or the priest who spoke in support of marriage equality at a rally. There will be a mix of emotions on the one-year anniversary of the yes vote, and I sincerely hope that pride is one of them. LGBTI law reform has never been easy, but the momentum is now unstoppable and the support has never been greater.
• Alex Greenwich is the independent member for Sydney and was the co-chair of Australian Marriage Equality
Tim Wilson: A mirror was held up to the nation
A year ago many Australians were filled with anxiety about whether they’d ever be equal before the law. Today they’re (hopefully) enjoying marital bliss. Delivering marriage equality was a watershed moment for the country. Change would always have been powerful. The imperfect delivery through a public survey amplified the scale of the victory and made it irreversible. It also meant it was a moment that every Australian could take ownership of. We did it together. The result continues to inform public debates. It was opponents that chose the public survey battlefield and should now regret it. A mirror was held up to the nation. It reflected an Australia that believed in a “fair go” for all. That tone will continue. We know precisely what Australians think. Democracy isn’t just about winning. Democracy is also about accepting loss. 38.4% of Australians chose to respond no for a variety of reasons. Today it is hard to find them. The process was fair. The result was clear. They have moved on. All social change is hard. History is never delivered on a silver platter. Today there will be children who’ll grow up only knowing that they can get married. What a gift for the next generation. That’s worth celebrating.
• Tim Wilson is the federal Liberal member for Goldstein