‘Perserverence And Bravery’: Charting Australia’s Long Path To Marriage Equality

Thirteen years of tireless campaigning for marriage equality in Australia are documented in new book Yes Yes Yes: Australia’s Journey to Marriage Equality.

The majority “yes” vote was announced on November 15 last year, and the same-sex marriage legislation was finally passed through the Australian parliament last December.

Since then, 5420 same-sex marriages have been registered in Australia, including 1094 in Queensland.

Australian Marriage Equality (AME) co-chair Alex Greenwich and AME national spokesperson Shirleene Robinson launched their book in Brisbane on Wednesday night, the eve of the first anniversary of the “yes” vote today.

In it, they cover the journey of the marriage equality movement from 2004, when the Marriage Act was amended to exclude same-sex couples, all the way through to 2017’s public vote and its aftermath.

AME Queensland Director Peter Black said the book is a “definitive chronicle of the journey to marriage equality, a journey which ultimately enriched our lives individually and as a nation.”

“Alex Greenwich and Shirleene Robinson who have been at the forefront of AME over the last decade were the best possible people to document the struggle and spotlight the many extraordinary people and stories that brought us to victory,” he said.

Greenwich said one of the challenges in writing the book was “capturing the stories of the people who made such a huge impact.”

“It took literally thousands of people to achieve marriage equality,” he said.

“But the narrative was always clear – that we could trust Australians to do the right thing.”

Shirleene also spoke of the lesson learned from the process.

“You look back at movements for equality across many fields and marriage equality, and as a Queenslander, you look back to the 1970s and 1980s,” she said.

“You look back at people like Bill Rutkin, the most modest and unassuming hero, the longest serving President of the Queensland AIDS Council under the government of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

“You see that it was people like Bill who brought us to this position.

“They brought us here by perseverance and bravery and courage. That perseverance lit the path for our campaign.

“The lesson is to never feel you can’t make a difference. If you truly believe in a progressive and just cause, you do have it in you to stand up and improve your world.”

On Thursday, Greenwich called for an apology from the “no” campaigners for their “harmful and damaging conduct” during the postal survey.

“What we have seen is more than 5000 happy couples get married,” he said.

“The LGBTI community has the knowledge that support for them has never been stronger, and momentum for change has also never been stronger.

“The ‘no’ campaign ran a targeted campaign against some of the most vulnerable in our community, against trans and gender diverse people and rainbow families.

“We always knew the ‘no’ campaign’s arguments were furphies, they were scaremongering tactics. It was appalling, and Australians resoundingly rejected that.”

‘Who takes the boy to football?’

Also addressing the launch was Sue Boyce, Liberal Senator for Queensland from 2007-2014 and the first ever Liberal parliamentarian to vote for marriage equality in any form when she crossed the floor to support a Greens bill in 2013.

She crossed the floor twice in her career, the first time in 2009 to support the Rudd Government’s Emissions Trading Scheme. She contrasted this to Barnaby Joyce’s record of crossing the floor 28 times.

Boyce explained the importance of Queensland equality campaigner Shelley Argent and PFLAG to the campaign.

“You listen more to people who look, sound and are similar to yourself,” she said.

Senator Boyce even arranged for Shelley to meet with Nationals Senator Ron Boswell, who had famously said, “Two mothers or two fathers can’t raise a child properly. Who takes the boy to football? Who tells him what’s right from wrong?

“What does he do? Go along with mum, or two mums? How does he go camping or fishing? It won’t work, it’s defying nature!”

Graham Perrett, Labor’s Federal member for Moreton since 2007, spoke at the launch of the contribution of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reconciliation movement to the success of the marriage equality movement.

“When the Murri community constantly asked for justice, governments both Liberal and Labor said, ‘Not ever,’” he said.

“The Murris waved the Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal flags and said, ‘Why not?’ The governments said, ‘Not yet.’

“Again, the Murri community all over Australia persisted and said, ‘When?’ and when stalling governments said, ‘Not now,’ they continued to wave their flags and chant, ‘Now, now, now.’

“Eventually in 1992 the High Court stepped in and the following year the Commonwealth Government under Paul Keating listened to that call. The Murri community had right and justice on their side.”

He said Alex and Shirlene documented in their book that the support of the Reconciliation movement was pivotal to the success of the fight for justice under the rainbow flag.

(Photo courtesy of Alex Greenwich)

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