THIS Sunday, Victoria will wake up like any other day. For me this would normally mean gym and brunch with mates, but this Sunday I will be sleeping in.
After being preselected as Victorian Labor’s candidate for Prahran in December last year, and full time campaigning since February, that sleep in will be a long time coming.
I would be the first openly-gay lower house MP in the 159-year history of Victorian Parliament. I would also be single, an exception for parliamentarians these days. I would be joined by an amazing and talented lesbian in the upper house, Harriet Singh, another Victorian first.
We would have — for the first time in any parliament in Australia’s history — a Minister for Equality in cabinet: my friend, long-time supporter of the LGBTI community, confidante and sounding board, Martin Foley MP.
We would also wake up to a new Premier, Daniel Andrews, who I will proudly march with us in Pride March 2015, a first for any Premier of Victoria, a Premier to whom equality, fairness and decency are not politically expedient in an election year, but core to his beliefs and not a compromise.
Now wouldn’t that be a great Sunday morning?
Over four years ago, I (rather quietly) began the campaign to change Labor’s position on marriage equality, and hundreds of other small, yet significant reforms federally. In an Andrews’ Labor Government I get to bring this home to Victoria.
Rodney Croome recently commented in the context of my work as Rainbow Labor’s national convenor that: “Neil’s contribution to the marriage equality campaign has been of critical importance. He played a pivotal role in achieving a reversal of Labor policy on marriage equality from opposition to support… What’s almost as impressive as Neil’s historic contribution to the marriage equality campaign has been his consistent failure to claim credit for this contribution.”
This was a comment which I really appreciated. I remember the fight, but know the success was not mine alone, for I stood on the shoulders of many giants who have dedicated their life’s work to equality.
On Monday, Daniel Andrews and I announced the biggest far-reaching reforms in Victoria’s history of LGBTI reform. This includes amending the Equal Opportunity Act to restore greater balance to be free from discrimination in the workplace (and reversing the policy currently supported by my opponent, the incumbent Prahran Liberal MP); creating a Gender and Sexuality Discrimination Commissioner to fight, represent and advocate for our community; and to change once and for all the discrimination in adoption for LGBTI Victorians.
Our commitments continue into relationships, including introducing reciprocal relationship recognition in Victoria for overseas marriages and interstate partnerships, while reducing the requirements for the Victorian register to enable more couples to recognise their life partner.
Most significantly for me, we will remove barriers to new birth certificates for trans* and gender diverse and intersex Victorians, and the automatic divorce consequences. I have shed tears over some of the stories from the trans* and gender diverse and intersex community. Australia can do better. Victoria can do better.
The politically-convenient expungement laws passed by the Liberal Government have not gone far enough. [Editor’s note: the expungement laws had bipartisan support] A formal state repudiation and apology is needed, and the HIV-specific law in Section 19A of the Crimes Act will be repealed, unconditionally.
There will also be a state-wide roll out of the Safe Schools Coalition, to once again put equality back on the agenda in Victorian schools.
Rounding out this announcement is a full legislative and regulatory review of Victorian Laws, so that none discriminate against the LGBTI community, or me, any longer. My state will recognise myself and LGBTI Victorians as a full citizens.
But after my sleep in on Sunday the work begins. I am committed to not wasting a day. Just as every day I need to correct someone about the term “same-sex marriage” versus “marriage equality” (the former discriminates against the trans*, gender diverse and intersex community, the latter is inclusive of them), I would work to make sure Labor, as the only true progressive movement in Victoria, would fulfil its promise.
In a weird sense of deja vu, instead of being in the background as I was with Rainbow Labor for similar changes federally, I would be standing proudly, out, gay and on the benches of a government who looks after my back.
In the year I was born my sexuality was still illegal in many parts of Australia. With your help 30 years later I would sit as a gay parliamentarian, with a Minister for Equality, and a Premier who has never flinched on the issue of equality.
In 30 years’ time, I hope none of these points will be relevant any longer and being gay is purely incidental. Until then, that next generation of Victorians for whom equality matters are relying on your vote.
On November 29, I am relying on yours.