EVERY year, the LGBTI community comes together for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival.

People come from all around the world to be part of it, to march, to dance, and to celebrate. It showcases the creativity, the diversity, and the pride of the LGBTI community.

 But as we march, or watch the march, we also remember that the vibrant parade we see today began as a protest march. It began as a cry for equality.

We’ve made a lot of progress on equality as a nation since the first Mardi Gras in 1978, but we’re not there yet.

The one big piece of unfinished business is marriage equality.

Public opinion is overwhelmingly in favour. And the Australian Constitution is clear: the Federal Parliament has the power to legislate on this issue. Yet still, Malcolm Turnbull just refuses to allow it to happen. He sold out on marriage equality to become Prime Minister, promising the conservative wing of the Liberal Party a plebiscite on the issue.

We can get this done now. We don’t need a plebiscite.

The justification Malcolm Turnbull has given for his unnecessary, expensive ($160 million) and divisive plebiscite was that it should be a decision for the people, not the parliament.

Tanya Tlibersek

Tanya Plibersek

Now we hear from members of his government — including Senators Cory Bernardi, Bridget McKenzie and Eric Abetz that it doesn’t matter what the plebiscite says because they will vote against marriage equality anyway.

This just proves the plebiscite is a desperate attempt to delay marriage equality as long as possible.

My greatest concern is the negative messages LGBTI teens and children of same-sex parents will hear during the plebiscite debate. If there’s one thing LGBTI Australians — and their children — don’t need, it’s a long campaign where one side of the “debate” has public license to argue that there’s something wrong with being gay or lesbian, and that same-sex parents are second-rate.

And the unnecessary delay of a plebiscite exacts another price as well.

I get angry when I think about people like Sydney man John Challis, 87 years old, who just wants to marry his partner of nearly 50 years. “I’m not going to live forever,” he said. I get angry when I think of friends who want the chance to have their families at their wedding and who worry that their frail and aging parents or grandparents won’t live to see them walk down the aisle.

We didn’t need a plebiscite to remove discrimination against women when parliament passed the Sex Discrimination Act. We didn’t need a plebiscite to remove discrimination against people for the colour of their skin when parliament passed the Race Discrimination Act. And we don’t need a plebiscite to remove discrimination against people just because of who they love.

It’s increasingly clear that the only way to get marriage equality is to change the government. If elected, a Labor Government will make marriage equality a reality within 100 days.

This Mardi Gras, march, dance, and celebrate the gains we’ve made. But at this year’s Federal Election, remember there’s one more big step still to take.

Cast your vote for marriage equality.

Tanya Plibersek is the deputy leader of the federal Australian Labor Party and the federal MP for Sydney.

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Editor’s note: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, also Wentworth federal Liberal MP, was invited to write a piece for Star Observer’s March edition. At the time of print it had not yet been provided.

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**This article was first published in the March edition of the Star Observer, which is available now. Click here to find out where you can grab a copy in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.

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