How grassroots campaigns will win marriage equality in Australia
THIS year continues to be a big one for marriage equality as discussions continue amongst politicians in Canberra. The media recognises the strong public interest in this campaign and regularly features stories on the issue.
Importantly, this has all been supported by inspiring campaigns in places all across Australia, where real action has taken place. Individuals and communities have been galvanised by the campaign for equality and are taking steps to make sure that politicians listen.
Last month saw three local councils respond to their constituent’s calls for action and pass motions to move marriage equality forward.
In Western Australia, both the Fremantle and Bayswater Councils formally declared their support for reform and in Victoria’s Surf Coast Council they agreed to fly the rainbow pride flag every day until all Australians can marry the person they love in the country they cherish.
Earlier this year, at a Town Hall event in Nowra, marriage equality campaigners saw a beautiful quilt that was to be auctioned off in support for marriage equality. We heard about the elderly woman from that community who had painstakingly crafted it. She had battled on after suffering a heart attack to make sure that her quilt was completed.
This lovely piece of craft, a heartfelt donation from a grandmother, symbolises the strong support that exists amongst a diverse group of the Australian public for this reform.
The campaign for marriage equality has always been strongly connected to grass-roots advocacy.
Over time and through conversations, loving couples have come together with their friends, families, neighbours and workmates to win over their communities and to show their elected representatives just why marriage equality matters.
Whether it has been by making submissions to senate inquiries or holding stalls at popular local markets, supporters of marriage equality are passionate about using their time and energy to contribute to a fairer and more equal Australia.
This is a topic that impacts people all across Australia and it is hardly surprising that there have been incredible local campaigns that reflect the strong desire to see this reform realised.
In the New South Wales Federal seat of Gilmore, which reaches up to Kiama and down beyond Bateman’s Bay, local campaigner Dawn Hawkins has brought together and organised an amazing grass-roots campaign, Marriage Equality Gilmore, that has touched many.
The quilt so beautifully crafted is just one of many expressions of support from this region. Marriage Equality Gilmore has held Town Hall Forums where passionate locals have spoken of their reasons for supporting marriage equality.
Connections with friends and family members who are unable to marry have motivated many in this area. At one recent forum, a mother, a celebrant, spoke of her joy at being able to marry loving couples but her sadness in knowing that her own daughter was denied that right.
In Lismore, an active and energetic campaign has unfolded. Locals in this area simply do not understand why Australian politicians have not implemented a popular reform with so much community support. Alongside Town Halls, they are having conversations and continuing to press for political action.
Similarly, Toni Johnson, in Albury-Wodonga, is part of a group that has held market stalls, forums and conversations with locals about how marriage equality reaches beyond the capitals but will also bring together rural and regional communities. People in Albury-Wodonga know well that marriage is a unifying institution that connects families and celebrates love. They reach out to their Federal member, asking that she support the sentiment of the region.
In the rural town of Toowoomba in Queensland, passionate locals have emphasised the same message. They have held forums where people of faith and other members of the community have stood side by side, stating that marriage equality has Toowoomba’s support. Market stalls have received a welcoming and positive response from locals.
In the Federal electorate of Murray in Victoria, a seat held by the Nationals, the Goulburn Valley Pride organisation has been bringing together their community at a variety of social events ranging from Town Hall Forums to movie screening, held with the intent of engaging and encouraging their Federal representative to reflect the electorate’s strong support for marriage equality on the floor of federal parliament
Communities have listened to the people impacted by the need for our laws to reflect the Australian values of fairness and equality and have responded resoundingly. They have come to recognise the fundamental unfairness of denying access to marriage to couples in loving same-sex relationships. They have seen how this issue reaches beyond the couples affected but also impacts their families and their friends. Support for marriage equality is robust and emphatic across Australia.
It is frustrating that Australia still does not have marriage equality. Yet it is truly inspirational to see the scale of action that is unfolding amongst communities all across Australia to make this reform a reality.
The campaigns outlined here are just a small sample of what is happening across the country. We may not be there yet but each day, through the determination, efforts and energy of everyday Australians, we move closer to marriage equality and to making a history we can all celebrate.
Dr Shirleene Robinson and Alex Greenwich are on the board of Australian Marriage Equality.
To stay up to date with the latest list of marriage equality events go to http://www.equalitycampaign.org.au/events and to find out where your MP stands on marriage equality go to http://www.equalitycampaign.org.au/wheretheystand