In time, we will succeed
Setbacks in the campaign for marriage equality only strengthen the resolve of equality advocates and the gay and lesbian community. By Senator Penny Wong.
Last month, the Parliament voted against marriage equality and, along with many of you, I was disappointed.
But my determination hasn’t changed. We cannot allow this setback to set us back. Because equality is a fundamental right; it is a principle that has underpinned generations of social progress. And it has not always been easily achieved.
We only have to look to the decades (and more) of campaigning and advocacy for the equality for women to see how important social reforms take time. Australian women did not uniformly have the right vote to until 1908, and weren’t able to stand for Parliament in all states and territories until 1926.
Equal pay provisions for women were only achieved in 1969, and it took decades to achieve formal legal equality through the introduction of legislation such as the Sex Discrimination Act in 1984.
So, laws do change; sometimes they just take longer than they should.
Last month, the Federal Parliament did not reflect the shift in the community to support marriage equality, but we know there has been a change; one that makes the comments of those who speak against marriage equality even more distant from the majority of Australians.
Those seeking to constrain our freedom to marry the person we love with offensive and derogatory comments are being revealed as the prejudiced individuals they are.
And it is becoming clearer that those who make the argument that allowing me to marry the person I love will somehow undermine their marriage says more about their relationship than mine.
Marriage does not need to be ‘walled off’ from some Australians in order to preserve its worth. Because at the heart of marriage is the love of and commitment to another. This promise – the vow of marriage – does not discriminate, and nor should our laws.
To those who oppose marriage equality, I say: You do not need to legitimise your relationship by undermining mine. You do not need to tell me and the thousands of other same-sex couples that our relationships are less worthy, less valid, or less important.
We know the worth of our relationships, and we will not allow them to be diminished in this debate. And we do not accept them being diminished by the law.
To those who feel let down by the Parliament, I encourage resolve. Particularly to young gay and lesbian Australians, to those who may not have come out yet, or are finding their way – the prejudice you hear does not reflect the direction in which this country is going.
Those who oppose marriage equality speak to the past. We need to look to a better future.
We saw MPs and Senators change their public position during the debate to support marriage equality. And, for the first time, marriage equality is a part of Labor's national platform, a change that only occurred because the community, Rainbow Labor and supporters worked together to achieve it.
This is the most personal of debates for LGBTI Australians. It is about the people we love most in the world – the people who give meaning and hope to our lives. And that is why we must all continue this campaign. And it is why in time, we will succeed. Blaze
Upcoming Marriage Equality Events
Townsville (Qld), November 19
Marriage equality forum feat. Ewen Jones, MHR for Herbert, 6.30pm, Monday 19 November, The Sovereign Hotel, 807 Flinders St, West Townsville
Adelaide (SA), November 22
Lecture, “Can South Australia legislate for marriage equality?” feat. Professor George Williams, 5.45pm, Thursday 22 November, Flinders University Victoria Square, Lvl 1, 182 Victoria Square
Melbourne (Vic), November 24
Equal Love marriage equality rally, 1pm, Saturday 24 November, State Library of Victoria
Perth (WA), November 24
Equal Love marriage equality rally, 1pm, Saturday 24 November, Stirling Gardens, Perth
Brisbane (Qld), November 25
Equal Love marriage equality rally, 1pm, Sunday 25 November, Queens Park
Sydney (NSW), November 25
CAAH marriage equality rally, 1pm, Sunday 25 November, Town Hall