We did it! The postal survey results are in and we won. But, this experience gives us more to celebrate than just the 61.6% victory.
It would be easy to focus on the negatives of Australia’s postal survey on same-sex marriage: the result is politically non-binding, it unleashed a wave of homophobia, it cost taxpayers $122 million just to tell the government what polls had been reporting for the last five years.
The nine-week nightmare of “respectfully” asking our countrymen to support our equal rights has left us weary, and given New Zealanders yet more reasons to laugh at us. However, let’s not overlook all the positive outcomes.
The Yes campaign mobilised the LBGTI community and our supporters in a way that hasn’t been seen since campaigns for decriminalisation in the ’70s and ’80s, and the fight against HIV/AIDS in the ’80s and ’90s. The Yes campaign rallied thousands of street-level volunteers who handed out flyers, door knocked, made cold calls, coordinated events and wrote press releases, but also inspired thousands of keyboard social media warriors. It has been an unprecedented effort on behalf of the LGBTI community, and attracted strong mainstream support.
Although the survey deeply divided the Coalition government, it provided a rare instance of unity between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who both supported the Yes side.
The Anglican church proved less united. When the Sydney diocese donated one million dollars to the No campaign, the Perth diocese responded with a “heartfelt apology” to the LGBTI community, saying the church was “deeply sorry for any harm we have done.” Perth Anglicans weren’t alone. Over 500 representatives of a broad range of faiths including Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus sent an open letter to the Prime Minister in support of marriage equality as a matter of social justice.
The religion that really matters to Australians – sport – also came to the Yes party. The NRL, with the guidance of Ian Roberts, declared themselves supporters, as did the AFL, The A-League and Cricket Australia. Macklemore’s performance of Same Love at the NRL grand final sent ex-PM Tony Abbott into a tail spin and had Immigration Minister Peter Dutton spluttering: “I want to take my boys to watch the footy and I don’t want the gay marriage message jammed down their throat.”
Not unexpectedly, the entertainment industry strongly supported us with Alfie Arcuri and Steve Huntington releasing original songs, both titled Love Is Love. Our usual cheerleaders, Kylie Minogue and Darren Hayes tweeted their love, with heavy-hitter Ellen also weighing in. (She is married to an Australian).
But a chorus of new voices sang along. Hugh Jackman tweeted: “We believe all Australians deserve to be treated equally under the law. That’s why Deb and I are voting YES.” The Bachelor, Matty John: “Not every Australian will get the chance to date 22 people on national TV but they should all have the opportunity to marry the person they love and be treated equally under the law.” Miley Cyrus: “Australia! Vote 4 Marriage Equality! Aussies are some of the most beautifully free spirited and open-minded people I’ve ever met! I will be even more proud to call myself Aus by association if this law is passed! Love Love Love!” Sia, Jai Courtney, Chris Martin and Chris Hemsworth, among many, joined in.
Magda Szubanski deserves a special mention. She made countless TV appearances including the gruelling experience of Q And A more than once. On each occasion she was articulate and well-researched; the emotional pain of the campaign, felt by so many, clearly visible. Szubanski transformed from a loveable comedy actor into a loveable activist with a straightforward message of love that demolished the hypercritical opinions of the likes of Karina Ochatel and Archbishop Glenn Davies.
The campaign brought out the best in others, too. Gay celebrities like Anthony Callea and Joel Creasey found their hitherto unheard activist voices. Christine Forster (Tony Abbott’s sister) and Frances Abbott (Tony’s daughter) also supported the Yes campaign. Tom and Wayne, the much-loved gay couple from Gogglebox, became accidental poster boys for the equality side: already having raised three children, they felt the sting of No campaigners’ claims that gay parents are bad for kids.
The business community, often perceived as socially conservative, put their money to good use with 660 corporations and over 1,700 organisations uniting for a combined pro-Yes statement. Amazon, ASX, Atlassian, Bonds, Commonwealth Bank, Foxtel, Kmart, McDonald’s, Qantas, Twitter and Visa were just some of the corporate supporters. Alan Joyce of Qantas was assaulted with a pie in the face for his efforts and later donated one million dollars of his own money to the Yes cause.
At the end of the day, the survey encouraged over 90,000 people to enrol to vote, and the LGBTI community can be proud of a campaign in which we, mostly, remained respectful and rational in the face of hysterical, irrational homophobia from the No side.
On behalf of everyone and for future generations… thank you all.