2004 might be remembered as the year we got angry again. It will also be remembered as the year we asked for, and were denied, equal access to marriage as opposite-sex couples.
It started with promise and a positive energy. Back in February 300 same-sex couples in Melbourne set a new world record for the biggest commitment ceremony, in the first of many calls for Australian same-sex marriage equality.
In the Mardi Gras month of March, John Howard went on the record against gay adoption and gay marriage. That month, the gay community had a significant win at a local level, with long-term gay advocate Clover Moore winning a bitterly contested battle to become Sydney’s lord mayor.
By April, a national gay and lesbian rights organisation, the Equal Rights Network, had formed, although its state bodies disagreed on whether to pursue same-sex marriage reform. A couple of weeks later, Howard flagged plans to overhaul the Marriage Act to ban same-sex couples from marrying.
It was clearly an election year. In June, a same-sex couple on Play School sparked an angry response from the prime minister and the opposition leader Mark Latham. This, combined with the ongoing promise of a marriage and adoption ban, inspired the first significant gay and lesbian protest action in years.
In the lead-up to the Olympic Games, Ian Thorpe said he wasn’t gay, again, after a suggestion was made in a work of art. Other athletes said they were, in fact, homosexual -“ particularly German cyclist Judith Arndt.
After several attempts, Howard’s marriage ban was passed with the support of the Labor Party. Howard, of course, won the election, and George Bush the US version.
In November, we were annoyed by John Laws, whose comedy skit about celebrity Carson Kressley included the terms pompous pansy prig and piss off, poof, phrases that later appeared in pink graffiti on Mardi Gras’ Petersham headquarters. After a meeting with community leaders, Laws took out a full-page ad in the Star to say sorry.
As the year faded, news emerged of the Western Australian Liberal Party’s plans to take rights back from the state’s gay and lesbian community, sparking more protests. And in South Australia, more than 24,000 submissions in support of same-sex rights were delivered to parliament. In 2004 we argued our case, but the fight is not over yet.