For now, we celebrate. The voluntary postal survey results are in. Around 80% of the population voted, and a little over 61% of those people voted in favour of marriage equality. It was a yes.
I was at a results announcement in Canberra on Wednesday morning. I watched the terror, the anticipation. What if it was a no? How would the LGBTQIA+ community cope? How would any of us cope, knowing the level of intolerance that was in our country?
Then came the words, “For the national result, Yes responses; seven million, eight hundred and seventeen thousand, two hundred twenty-four, representing sixty-one point six percent…”
Yes had won.
I cried. I hugged the nearest person. I texted my best friends, my old neighbours and my oldest friend, all of whom are part of the LGBTQIA community, to congratulate them. Then I remembered to text my mother the result (she is deaf and doesn’t have a TV or a computer right now). She was overjoyed.
Love had won.
Not only that, the ACT where I live recorded the highest yes percentage of any state or territory in Australia, a whopping 75%. I couldn’t be more proud. I went to the street party in the city, I listened to Penny Wong (a politician who was one of the biggest supporters of marriage equality, and is gay herself, for those of you not in Australia) speak to the crowd. I listened to people sing about freedom, change and equality. I cried some more.
We had won.
But now, it’s a week later and the realities have settled in. Australia has said yes but our parliament has not. We have been promised marriage equality by Christmas by our prime minister, but that hasn’t happened yet. There are politicians who, despite their constituents having voted yes, are still determined to vote no on any bill that will change the definition of marriage. While the bill the parliament will vote on has been decided, there is still a lot of talk of amending it to protect the right to discriminate. Not just to protect the right of priests and celebrants to refuse to perform marriages (which is already covered by our laws protecting religious freedom), but to allow people to kick LGBTQIA+ people out of their businesses, shops and restaurants, to refuse them service based on their sexuality. There are still people who seek to tarnish this giant step forward by manipulating it to allow them to openly parade their bigotry. And that’s terrifying.
It means that, unfortunately, this is not the end of our fight. Until it’s accepted by our parliament, we must keep pushing for marriage equality. Until it’s rejected by our parliament, we must keep fighting the bigotry we’ve seen over the last three-plus months (and the many years before). It’s exhausting, but my exhaustion is nothing compared to those in the LGBTQIA+ community. I am fighting for the rights of others, they are fighting for the rights that have been denied them. So I vow to fight harder. To make my voice louder. To be stronger, until their rights are protected by Australian law. Until we achieve equality, not just in marriage, but in the treatment of all LGBTQIA+ people.
Photos were taken at the Big Gay Out Community Picnic, and the Official Canberra Results Street Party. Additional photo by Caitlyn McKenzie.