January 9 is going to be special day for many Australians. It’s the first official day that LGBTI couples will be legally allowed to marry in our country. It’s also my birthday, and I couldn’t think of a better present.
And to think it all came from the big, sour lemon that was the marriage equality postal survey. But, like Beyonce with her Lemonade, we knew what to do: SQUEEZE. We did, and the victory was so sweet.
LISTEN: Holly Wainwright and Mia Freedman look back on the instrumental players who got marriage equality over the line this year, with Christine Forster. Post continues after audio.
Looking back on 2017, this year more than ever, my personal life became very political. Not because I felt a burning desire to marry, but because my very ability to make that choice was under fierce attack. Sometimes it was laughable – shout-out to Kevin Andrews and his close relationship with his “cycling mates” – but most of it was downright hurtful, like the lies we had to put up with about “radical” children’s education and the legitimacy of rainbow families.
And yet, the flipside of going through it all is that I’ve never felt prouder to be gay. In fact, I’ve never felt prouder to be Australian.
It was November 15, 2017. I was standing among a crowd of hundreds of hopeful faces. Couples in love. Children with their parents. Families with dogs. Friends holding each other tightly. People of all sides of the fence – gay, straight and everything in between. My boss and her 11-year-old daughter, swathed in “equality” badges. Me in my “YES” shirt. My partner in his suit, because, yes, it was still a work day. We bit our nails nervously as we waited for that thrilling Australian Bureau of Statistics guy (he has a name, David Kalisch) to announce the news that was about to change so many Australians’ lives.
It was quite a road to get here. Ever since John Howard threw in those words “to the exclusion of all others” into the Marriage Act in 2004, the LGBTI community has watched country after country do the opposite. Instead of excluding them, more than 25 countries opted to include LGBTI citizens in the institution of marriage if they so wished.
In 2017, Australia had enough of the political football the major parties had been playing on the issue for years. Every step of the way was a struggle. This year, Malcolm Turnbull kept on pushing for the compulsory plebiscite no-one wanted, which was blocked by the Senate so we had to settle for that other lemon: the non-compulsory, non-binding postal survey that ended up costing $80m (*slow clap that it ended up under the $122m estimate…very. slow. clap*).
Things got sour. The survey gave a platform for opinions that openly disparaged, vilified and discriminated against LGBTI people and their families. Australians who felt uncomfortable with LGBTI people were given a free pass to say anything they wanted, under the guise of “respectful debate”.