I became involved in fighting for Marriage Equality when my youngest son married about 3 years ago. Although it was a happy occasion it was also tinged with sadness because it was whilst I was sitting in the church that it hit me that my oldest son would never have this opportunity. My husband and I have 5 children between us 4 of them are married or about to be married yet my oldest son is not allowed to!
In 2014 I contacted Australian Marriage Equality, I spoke to Rodney Croome and asked what I could do and he asked me to start a local campaign for Corangamite as they were about to embark on an electorate by electorate journey to convince M.P’s that they should support Marriage Equality.
With that Geelong for Marriage Equality was formed and we started on our journey. As the first of such groups in Australia we had no guidelines so I just put my thinking cap on and launched into it. The first thing we did was ask for a meeting with Sarah Henderson our Federal MP. I gathered a group of likeminded people and went to her office. I also called for people to send letters of support and took with me approximately 40 letters and emails. She listened and then challenged us to show her that the electorate supported Marriage Equality.
We formed a committee of some really awesome people and set about gathering that evidence. I wrote to the City of Greater Geelong, Surf Coast Shire and Colac/Otway Shire. COGG and Surf Coast came on board and moved motions to support Marriage Equality and also write to Sarah Henderson and The Human Rights Commission. Colac/Otway chose not to, despite the support of the Mayor at the time and one other Councillor. This led to Cr Jan Farrell of COGG spearheading the campaign for Local Government across Australia to get on board.
I also wrote to whoever I could think of to gather support sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I failed. However, I did manage to get the Geelong Cats to show support on their website and I also wrote to Gillon McLaughlin CEO of the AFL. Gillion wrote back showing full support and today you see how the AFL is supporting Marriage Equality, Antidiscrimination and Diversity by holding Pride Games. This garnered worldwide publicity. GME were also the first to hold the premiere Australia wide of the film The Case Against 8, which was opened by then Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson. We even got publicity on Studio 10 via the Mayor of Geelong, Darren Lyons. I wrote to Rotary Clubs and Community Organisations and offered to speak to them on Marriage Equality. Unfortunately, only one Rotary Club took up that offer and I’m pleased to say they all signed postcards. Others helped by allowing us to hold stalls (free of charge).
We went on to hold meet and greet stalls at various markets and finally sent over 2,000 postcards to Sarah Henderson’s office. In June 2015 Sarah publicly came out in support of Marriage Equality and argued very strongly in the now infamous Party Room Meeting for Marriage Equality and a Free Vote.
History now has us heading towards a Plebiscite on whether our loved ones in the LGBTI Community should be allowed to marry. It still seems strange to me that there was no plebiscite held to actually change the legislation in the first place when John Howard changed to wording from “Marriage should be between two people” to “Marriage is between a man and a woman exclusively” and then he made Ministers and Celebrants say this in all ceremonies. Luckily not all celebrants nor brides and grooms agree and they do ask people to cover their ears or put a disclaimer that they don’t agree. Go them!
I will continue to fight for a free vote for as long as I can, until it is formally announced that the only way we will get Equality is by plebiscite and then I will fight tooth and nail for a YES vote to be returned.
With the support of my husband John and my family the fight continues!