Australia’s journey to marriage equality saw record numbers enrol to vote, meet with their MPs, make submissions to inquiries, and attend rallies.

It also gave rise to a generation of LGBTI elected representatives across all levels of government and all major political parties.

While it has not always been the case, LGBTI politicians are now supported and celebrated across parliaments.

You only need to look at the traditionally conservative NSW Upper House to see how far we have come, where Don Harwin leads the Coalition Government and Penny Sharpe is the deputy Leader of the Labor Opposition.

Both are deeply respected across their respective parties and role models for gay and lesbian people seeking elected office.

At the end of the marriage equality campaign it was LGBTI politicians who shepherded the legislation through both houses of federal parliament.

The coalition’s Dean Smith produced and introduced the bill, Labor’s Penny Wong and Louise Pratt worked tirelessly to see all hostile amendments voted down, and the Greens’ Janet Rice ensured the stories and struggles of the trans and gender diverse communities were included.

All four Senators are true heroes of the LGBTI community, as are their lower house colleagues famously nick-named the “Rainbow Rebels”: Tim Wilson, Trevor Evans, Trent Zimmerman, and of course straight ally Warren Entsch.

The moment we saw our parliament come together and finally pass a law that shaped Australia as a fairer and more equal place is a tribute to the multi-partisan leadership and cooperative working relationship of the federal parliament’s LGBTI members and we need to see more of it. 

The good news is, our numbers are growing.

Nita Green, who helped lead the Yes campaign in Queensland has been preselected at the top of Labor’s Queensland Senate ticket, and based on the Victorian election result the Greens’ Jason Ball could be representing Higgins in federal parliament soon.

Liberal City of Sydney Councillor Christine Forster has indicated her interest in higher office, and of course long-term LGBTI champion Kerryn Phelps was just elected in the Wentworth by-election.

The growth in numbers of our rainbow representatives is as important as ever, especially with the threat of so-called “religious protections” designed to target discrimination against us.

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual members of our parliaments, and indeed all politicians and parties should work harder to ensure the trans and gender diverse community, who are often under attack from the far-right, are finally represented at both a state and federal level.

Marriage equality helped spark a rainbow wave across our parliaments, so let’s help it grow and bring more colour, ideas, and diversity to our law making processes.

Being at the table helps ensure we are not on the menu. 

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