This coming weekend sees the ALP National Conference. This year Julia Gillard has committed to a conscience vote on marriage equality, and has commented she anticipates and looks forward to a robust debate.

The GLRL has been lobbying for a platform change for the ALP’s policy on the Marriage Act, as we believe equality should not be a matter of conscience — it should be a matter of law.

As I sit here, writing my column and pondering the conscience vote, it is difficult for me to comprehend Gillard’s motivation to consistently come out (as it were) against marriage equality. She has been open with her atheism. She is unmarried and living with her long-term partner.

And yet, time and again, and seemingly against the tide of opinion within the ALP and the general community, she has stated her opposition to marriage equality.

So now we’re getting a conscience vote, where the party leaders can be absolved of responsibility for the outcome, whichever way it may go on the day.

It is estimated that currently up to seven out of 10 Australians support marriage equality. And we all vote. We have local members. Perhaps we are members of a party ourselves.

Maybe our engagement with politics is limited to fights around the dining table. Or maybe it’s simply showing up on election day to avoid the fine.

Whatever your interest, I encourage to send your local member (whatever party they may be from) an email this week voicing your support for marriage equality and encouraging them to do the same. Do it now! It will take 90 seconds. This week, you have a real opportunity to make a difference.

As a community, now is the time to become increasingly vocal about what matters to us, whether it’s marriage equality, being able to walk down Oxford St on a Saturday night and feel safe, feeling comfortable to be out at work, or having a great time at Mardi Gras.

Full legal equality has nearly been achieved, but we still have a long way to go in the ‘outside world’.

Please make your voice heard at the rally this Saturday, starting at Hyde Park at noon, and keep making it heard!

Over the next year the GLRL is going to be working to engage the whole community more than ever before, and we would like to hear from you about what really matters. Please visit our website at www.glrl.org.au and click through the ‘Contact Us’ tab and drop us a line. We want to hear from you!

By LAINIE ARNOLD, NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby

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