*In the wake of the “YES” marriage equality survey result, former Sydney Roosters player and activist Casey Conway shares his thoughts.*
Equality, by a quick Google search, is defined as "the state of being equal, in status, rights or opportunities." Easy, right? Wrong.
In Australia, in 2017, we have still not been able to achieve something as basic as the right for each and every citizen to legally marry the person they love.
Let that sink in, and read the following slowly:
Two people of the same sex, who contribute to society in the same way as those around them, cannot commit themselves to a life-long union of love that would give them the same protections as a straight person that can get "married at first sight" or pick out their partner from a line-up of strangers from the opposite sex with the giving of a rose.
Our Government instead decided it was appropriate to put this very idea to a popular vote. Non-binding, non-compulsory, expensive and harmful- not only to the LGBTI community broadly, but young people who are questioning their sexuality and sometimes even their life.
It seems, via the Yes result, that the majority of eligible Australian voters understand and accept the concept of equality. This isn’t a new notion. The majority of us want the LGBTI community to have the same rights afforded to them that our straight family, friends, colleagues and others in our lives and have so for some time now.
For the government to have ignored this and proceeded with the process is ludicrous and an international embarrassment for a nation that claims to be progressive and inclusive.
With the majority vote now secured, I have to say I believe this has done more harm than good.
We already knew that the majority wanted this dealt with in Parliament. That crazy idea that our elected officials do the job we put them there to do.
Whether you think the debate was respectful or not (it wasn’t), I feel it’s most appropriate to highlight some of the good that has come out of this whole process and focus on that.
The LGBTI community was mobilised on a scale that hasn’t been as powerful and significant since the 1978 protests, the first Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, which played a major part in states slowly decriminalising the acts of homosexuality. It is worth recognising that people that took part in those demonstrations are now again a big part of the Marriage Equality fight, and we salute them.
The way in which the Yes campaign conducted itself and captured the spirit of the LGBTI community through story-telling and truthful and accurate information sharing has been heart-warming. We’ve heard stories of triumph and heartbreak, of how love has overcome the harshest of barriers and of what a future might look like if we are all treated fairly and equally.
I’ve reflected on what my future might look like if I have the same rights as my four brothers, and now three of my 14 nephews that are of legal age.
I was Best Man at my youngest brother’s wedding in 2009 and I remember savouring the moment thinking that was the closest I was ever going to get to being a groom.
To now have hope that he can be my best man and I will marry the man I want to spend the rest of my life with fills me with a joy that is difficult to put into words.
Another positive feature of this survey that is unprecedented in Australia is the support from outside the LGBTI community.
More than saying they support Marriage Equality, they spoke of their support of human rights, an attribute we cannot use to describe our Government.
We saw airlines, banks, law firms, retailers, sporting organisations, health organisations and many more speaking in ways we can only dream our Government should. To those that didn’t support this idea that we are equal, we see you. We, the LGBTI community, are skilled workers and consumers, and we won’t forget.
So where to from here? That’s anyone’s guess, but what we now know is that Australia has spoken loud and clear. We want to live in a society that promotes fairness and equality.
I hope to see you at the altar soon. Well, not altar, perhaps at the beach, under an arch, with our feet in the sand, but you know what I mean. Love will always prevail.
Casey Conway is an indigenous LGBTI activist from Sydney.