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By Erin Steele

In March 2012 I sat in on a marriage equality forum in Melbourne held by Equal Love, one of the groups leading the campaign for equal rights. I was nervous as hell and didn’t really know much about marriage equality beyond the fact that we didn’t have it.

I joined Equal Love that night and haven’t looked back for one minute. My reasons for joining were numerous, some more noble than others.

Having recently returned from the UK, where I had come out of the closet, had my political interest piqued, and been following the infuriating yet heartbreaking spectacle of two of my closest male friends (one American, one British with dual Australian citizenship) jumping through every available hoop to marry and live in the US.

After 18 exhaustive months of sworn statements, extensive documentation of the relationship and visits to immigration, my friend’s US visa was not granted.

Despite needing to live in the US due to familial responsibilities, they were forced to settle for a civil union in the UK, which would allow them to live and work as a de facto couple. They spent every spare penny they had on travelling to Australia and then the US to visit their respective families. 

Returning home, I couldn’t get on the internet fast enough. “I’m gay!” I thought. “This affects me! And people I know! And it’s bullshit!”

I searched for the term “marriage equality Australia” and clicked on the first website I could find (well, the first that didn’t require a special set of prerequisites to join), “Equal Love”.  I had never heard of the group, or of Ali Hogg (the group’s convener and leader), who I’ve come to know as one of the warmest, fiercest, bravest and hardest working activists I could have hoped to meet. 

Admittedly I joined Equal Love knowing little to nothing about politics, queer culture or whether this would ever really be relevant to my life or interests. Frankly, it was just an issue I felt strongly about, but I also just wanted to meet some other like-minded queers and protest against a system I don’t agree with on the whole. It definitely wasn’t personal.

Two years on, however, I feel a little differently. Six Melbourne rallies, three regional rallies (at one of which I spoke on behalf of EL), dozens of events, fundraisers, meetings, working bees, posters, flyers, social media campaigns and three different T-shirt designs – this has become more than a little personal. 

Be it Liberal or Labor, there has been a revolving door of politicians who have overseen ten years of legislated discrimination, some with vehement opposition and gross bigotry, some with an apologetic shrug at the withholding of our civil rights.

This is my problem. Not because I’m queer. Not because I’m a leftie. Not even because I particularly want to get married. But because I’m a human being and civil rights belong to everyone. It is the principle of the thing.

I now understand and can speak fairly authoritatively on legislated discrimination, the anti-gay lobby, the Marriage Act and how it operates within the Constitution, what is required in parliament to achieve our objective and the larger agenda at work in continuing this legislated bigotry.

This year marks 10 years of action for marriage equality. Yes, I am disgusted. And yes, it is personal. I’ll be at the next rally to keep up this fight. Will you join me?

Article first published in Red Flag.

Equal Love's next March for Marriage Equality in Melbourne is on May 17 1pm, State Library of Victoria. Click attending on facebook.

 

New Zealand has today become the thirteenth country to legislate for marriage equality. New Zealand joins Uraguay, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Canada, South Africa, Argentina, Denmark, The Netherlands, and Iceland in ending discrimination in marriage law. France is set to become the fourteenth after New Zealand later this week.

Equal Love convenor Ali Hogg:

 “It is high time our neighbours in NZ have the freedom to marry their loved ones and not be discriminated against on the basis of their sex or gender as we are here in Australia.”

“It is shameful that this reform has been introduced by a conservative government, while the Labor government here continues to discriminate, despite the wishes of the vast majority of Labor voters and the community.”

“Marriage equality activists will take encouragement from this win, and will redouble our efforts to pressure the Australian government to also end discrimination. The feeling in the community is that equality should have been made law long ago, and that the Australian government has shown utter contempt towards LGBTI people in this country. We are calling on Julia Gillard and the Labor government to make equality law before Tony Abbott forces us all back to the Stone Age!”

Equal Love will be holding a rally on Saturday 11 May at 1pm at the State Library of Victoria in support of equal marriage rights and encourage all supporters of equality to join us.

The many sympathetic friends, family, school and workmates are also encouraged to attend. We will be sending a clear message to the government, and the opposition, that until we will not stop fighting until equality is law.

 

 

Over 3000 MARCH THROUGH MELBOURNE MARKING 8 YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF MARRIAGE BAN

11.08.12


Thousands marched in Melbourne today to protest against 8 years of state-sanctioned discrimination. Over 3,000 people from across Victoria marched through the streets of Melbourne chanting “Gay, straight, Black or white, marriage is a civil right!”


Ali Hogg, Convener of Equal Love, said:


“Today was an awesome show of support for equal rights. We sent a loud and clear message to politicians that they should vote in support of marriage equality - even if it means they have to cross the floor of Parliament.”


On this date every year Equal Love has held mass rallies to protest the ban. The protest was followed by a mass illegal wedding ceremony in defiance of the government’s law. About 40 couples were able to have their relationship recognised publicly in front of thousands of supporters.


The ceremony was conducted by Father Greg Reynolds who recently gained notoriety after opening a church of dissident Catholics that welcomes ‘‘every man and his dog’’ – including gays and lesbians. Greg was proud to oversee the wedding of couples who lack the legal right to marry under Australian law.


The rally was addressed by the Member for Melbourne and Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens Adam Bandt.


Other speakers included Ryan Hsu, the Victorian Assistant Secretary of the National Tertiary Education Union; Doug Pollard, journalist and presenter on gay and lesbian radio station Joy 94.9fm; and Ali Hogg, Convener of Equal Love Melbourne.


Equal Love have announced a future rally to be held on 24 November 24. We call on all supporters of equality to continue to pressure all sides of politics to vote in favour of equality in the upcoming marriage amendment bills.

 

Equal Love welcomes the co-sponsored marriage-equality bill, by Greens MP Adam Bandt and Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, calling for the Marriage Act to no longer discriminate, as well a separate bill by Labor MP Stephen Jones.

Ali Hogg convener of Equal Love said “It’s a great start to the year with both Bandt and Wilkie co sponsoring such a bill and ALP MP Stephen Jones releasing a similar bill within days.”

It puts us in good stead to keep the issue alive and for us to be able to continue to keep up the mounting pressure on MP’s to support equality and support the bills.”

Equal Love have called a National Day of Action for Saturday May 12 where we are hoping to see thousands of marriage equality supporters across Australia hit the streets in a loud and vibrant show of support to keep the pressure on politicians to grant equal rights for LGBTI people in Australia.

To see the Bill co sponsored by Bandt and Wilkie go to
http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22legislation%2Fbillhome%2Fr4748%22

To see the Bill by Stephen Jones go to
http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22legislation%2Fbillhome%2Fr4749%22

NEXT RALLY
Sat 12 May, 1pm State Library of Victoria

Media Contact
Ali Hogg: 0403 019 430

 

 Marriage Equality True story by Jules Cole, Melbourne, July 2010 Marriage equality upholds the rights of all Australians Like thousands of other people living in Australia, our story is simple: we met, we fell in love, and we chose to make a lifelong commitment to each other.

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