Here at MCWH we’re not usually excited by celebrity weddings. It’s often difficult to connect with “who is marrying who” in the faraway worlds of movie stars or royals. But hearing about the first same sex marriages taking place in Australia, at MCWH we can’t help but be excited. These joyous occasions have been so hard-won. They are long-awaited expressions of peoples’ love and happiness together, and a public and shared opportunity for friends and family to witness their loved ones exercise their equal rights to marriage. As the slogan proudly states, ‘Love Won’, and now we can soak up the pleasure of seeing love celebrated without discrimination.
In the fog of joy and excitement, let’s not forget that it’s been a tiring and difficult battle against an inequality that began almost fourteen years ago. It was only in 2004 that the Marriage Act was amended specifically to discriminate against same-sex relationships. Passing the bill to legalise same-sex marriage has not destroyed a long-held tradition, but has reversed the introduction of a very recent act of political discrimination.
There has been harm done along the way. The postal survey was traumatising for many, and the process of having the community judge whether LGBTIQ people are worthy of equal rights was demeaning. Moreover, once the announcement was made and the result was a resounding yes, the recriminations which identified migrants as the culprits behind the no vote in some electorates was inaccurate and divisive and did little more than feed into racist stereotypes of migrant communities. For LGBTIQ people who belong to migrant and refugee communities, that news angle, after such a happy and unifying result, was isolating and demoralising.
We’re so happy to see that as we farewell 2017 we are leaving behind a significant form of discrimination against LGBTIQ people. As for 2018, we are pleased to take some wonderful gifts with us into the new year so that we can apply them to our work in dismantling discrimination and injustice in other realms.
Our first gift is wisdom: we have learned that despite the positive result, the effect of putting a community’s rights up for public judgement can be harmful and creates long-lasting damage to a community’s trust and well-being.
Our second is civic engagement: we have loved seeing young people more politically engaged, enrolling to vote in unprecedented numbers, and beyond that, taking a lead on the issues that affect them and their communities. May their passion continue to lift community spirits.
Our third: we are grateful for the opportunity to bring love into politics. The public celebrations that took place across Australia, both inside and outside of Parliament House, were beautiful expressions of love across the barricades.
More of these gifts in our communities will definitely make 2018 worth coming back for. We’ll see you then.