December 29, 2016 at 11:30 am EDT | by Alex Greenwich
Australian marriage activists seek ‘fair go’ in 2017

Canberra Airport, gay news, Washington Blade

Operators of the Canberra Airport on Aug. 9, 2015, highlighted their support for marriage rights for same-sex couples by illuminating the terminal in rainbow colors. They also highlighted their support for a gay nuptials bill. (Photo courtesy of Star Observer/Australian Marriage Equality)

When the USA achieved marriage equality last year in the history making Supreme Court case President Obama said, “When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free.”

That idea of freedom is also part of the Australian credo of a “fair go,” where anybody should have the chance to follow their heart and reach their full life potential. That freedom to have a “fair go” is what we have been chasing in Australia for more than a decade.

The option of pursuing marriage equality through the courts is not open to us in Australia like it was in USA. The only road we can take is through our federal politicians and 2016 proved to be one of the biggest and toughest years for the Australian marriage equality campaign.

In 2004 our then-prime minster, in response to countries around the world embracing marriage equality, changed the Marriage Act to specifically exclude LGBTI couples.
It amendment read: Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.

At that time just over a third of the population supported marriage equality. Our challenge was to talk to the public and change their hearts and minds. Over a decade later we have managed as a country to become one of the biggest supporters of same-sex marriage in the world, with two thirds of the population now in favor of reform.

In the 2016 federal election we ran a “Vote for Equality” campaign which returned more supporters of marriage equality to our parliament than we have ever seen and across every party.

Our challenge now is to have our parliament write this support into law.

A lot of that success comes from lesson we have learned from countries, like the USA. The power of positive conversations has the ability to reach across political, religious and social boundaries. It is about reminding Australia that marriage equality is about people you know. It’s about your families, friends, colleagues and teammates and the success of our campaign reinforces how the power of the human story can never be underestimated.

Our recently launched Equality Campaign has engaged millions of Australians right across our country with the resources needed to get equality across the line. We now have a strong national campaign infrastructure ready for every political scenario in our push to achieve marriage equality.

We have built relationships with supporters from all possible areas of across Australia, including more than 1,000 businesses, unions, civil society and human rights organizations, religious leaders, sports organizations, mental health organizations, local government and political organizations.

Although 2016 has been a trying time for LGBTI people here in Australia and across the world, our outlook and campaign continues to be positive and about respectful engagement. We will continue to create the space for people across the nation to ask questions and tell the real, human stories that allow people to take their journey of support.

Our campaign has shown that working together and focusing on similarities rather than difference is the most effective way to grow support.

In our parliament there is support from many of the non-government parties, but we need a handful of government members to get the vote across the line. It’s encouraging that senators from every political party in a government lead Inquiry have already started to work together to get the legislation right, and we are working hard to progress this to a successful vote as soon as possible.

There is a chance that next year Australia could become a beacon of hope in a world where it is clear that progress is not inevitable. We must continue our campaign to ensure every citizen has the same aspirations and opportunities in life.

So many Australians are going into the new year committed to working damn hard to make sure that in 2017 love finally wins and that Australia becomes the next nation that gives every citizen the right to marry the person they love in the country they love.

You can stay up to date or join our campaign at www.equalitycampaign.org.au.

Alex Greenwich is co-chair of Australian Marriage Equality.

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