We are celebrating. Love won.
Like so many other Australians, I wept a few happy tears as the “yes” win in the same-sex marriage survey was announced.
I know I’ll be weeping more happy tears over the coming years as my gay friends and relatives get married.
But as happy as I am, I still feel angry. I’ve been feeling angry for months.
I’m angry that the survey happened. It wasn’t necessary. To legalise same-sex marriage, all Australia needed was to have a leader who would have the moral strength to do the right thing. We didn’t have that. Instead, we got a non-binding postal vote.
The Government spent about $100 million on the survey process. Let me list a few ways that money could have been better spent: mental health funding, anti-bullying programs in schools, support for victims of domestic violence.
No. The Government chose to spend that money on a survey that basically legitimised homophobia.
It wasn’t just the Government. The Anglican Diocese of Sydney spent $1 million funding the “no” campaign. That’s staggering. That a church could spend that much money trying to stop people getting married – not inside their church, but in civil ceremonies.
That $1 million is gone, totally wasted, in a campaign they lost.
Listen: Australia voted yes. What now? (Post continues after audio.)
To hold a postal vote was to say that marriage equality is an argument that has two sides. It was to say that it’s okay to be homophobic. But it’s not. That caused terrible emotional damage that will take a long time to heal.
For months I have seen my gay friends suffering. They’ve said that the homophobic abuse they’ve had to endure during the survey has been worse than they’ve experienced in decades – or maybe ever. They couldn’t escape it. It was written in the sky.
Things were said that should never have been said. It was ugly and hurtful. It was a shameful period in Australia’s history.
The yes campaigners were advised to be nice on social media. To not attack people who were voting no, or who claimed they hadn’t made up their minds. I think we shouldn’t have gone so easy on them. Homophobia should not be tolerated, in the way it was during the survey. Never again.
As convenor of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Lauren Foy was right at the heart of the yes campaign.
“It’s actually been pretty relentless,” Foy tells Mamamia.
“I’ve had threatening letters delivered to my house, anonymous letters and emails sent to me which obviously were reported to the police. People put those risks and threats aside for the sake of the campaign.
“There’s going to be a generation of traumatised young people as a consequence of the conversations that have gone on. Even though the majority of people are civilised, there are some people that aren’t, and they have had a profound impact on people who are known for their resilience and known for their strength.”
The survey on same-sex marriage was never wanted.
“People were backed into a corner and had no choice, and so we fought for it, because we always have had to,” Foy adds.
“This is a perfect example of state-sanctioned homophobia and transphobia, and it should never, ever, ever be repeated again, ever, for any minority.”
Musician Darren Hayes summed it up in a tweet today:
I’m appreciative & happy but also angry the Australian gov wasted so much money, humiliated so many, exposed them to hateful rhetoric and made us beg for the privilege of what is a basic human right. Congratulations Australians, but shame on our government. #marriageequality
— Darren Hayes (@darrenhayes) November 14, 2017
So let’s celebrate, let’s get the marriage equality bill passed, and let’s start buying wedding presents.
But let’s not forget that the survey win came at a financial cost and an emotional cost that was just too high.