Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Saying "Yes" to Marriage Equality in Australia


Above: Rikki Mason and Waangenga Blanco of the
Bangarra Dance Theatre. (Photo: Tiffany Parker)

In Australia today the same-sex marriage postal survey officially closes.

You may recall that I previously wrote about how the conservative Coalition government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced in August a $122 million postal vote (or plebiscite) on the issue of marriage equality. Ballots were sent out to every registered voter in September, with a final decision set to be announced next Wednesday, November 15. According to SBS News, close to 80% of Australians chose to vote in the survey.

How exactly will the plebiscite work? Well, if marriage equality is supported (by a "yes" vote) by a majority of registered voters, the government will facilitate a parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage before December 7. Such a vote is expected to be in favour of marriage equality. If a majority of voters oppose marriage equality, there will be no parliamentary vote and civil marriage rights and benefits will continue to be denied to same-sex couples in Australia.

Right: The Sydney Opera House, lit up with rainbow colors to mark the November 6, 2017 launch of the city’s 40th Mardi Gras celebrations in 2018. I also think it's no coincidence that rainbow colors grace this landmark building in the lead up to the December 7 announcement of the marriage equality postal vote result.

On this last day of voting, here is how SBS Australia's Chloe Sargeant sums up her feelings and the feelings of many LGBTQIA+ Australians and their loved ones.

Australia's $122 million, non-binding, non-compulsory postal survey on same-sex marriage . . . [was] was completely unprecedented, and I know that personally, I felt mentally unprepared for the onslaught of campaigning, social media posts, rallies, attacks, homophobia – and much more. It was unrelenting, and I felt emotionally drained within days of it beginning.

Today, the voting period for the postal survey officially, and finally closed. On one hand, I feel like a weight has lifted from my shoulders. "It can only get better from here, surely," I said, internally. But then, the realisation set in that this was just the first hurdle: the announcement of the results will occur on November 15, at 10 a.m.

If the result is 'no', it will break the hearts of millions of Australians – both the LGBTQIA+ community, and the people that love us, our allies. If it's 'yes' – then we will cry tears of joy, we will dance, we will ask our partners to marry us, we will set dates, and we will hold one another in our arms, silently thanking some higher power that we were not lost in the hatred, and promising one another that our queer joy will return ten-fold.

An Essential poll released today told us that the 'Yes' campaign looks set for victory, with 64 per cent of respondents saying they voted for same-sex couples to be allowed to marry. However, that also means that nearly 40 per cent voted for us to remain second-class citizens.

– Chloe Sargeant
Excerpted from "The Postal Survey is Officially Closed:
How Are LGBTQIA+ People Feeling?

November 7, 2017

Although I was in Australia when the postal vote was announced, I returned to the U.S. soon afterwards. Accordingly, I did not witness nor was I exposed to the contentious debate around marriage equality that has been playing out in Australia for the past two months. I am aware, however, of some really erroneous, misleading, and downright ugly things said by the "No" campaign. But I'm also aware of some really beautiful and powerful sentiments and statements expressed by the "Yes" campaign.

One of my favorite statements from a supporting organization of the "Yes" campaign was from the Bangarra Dance Theatre, whose powerful and mesmerizing production of Bennelong I saw in Canberra when I was back in Australia in August. When this statement was shared on Bangarra's Facebook page, it was accompanied by the image that opens this post, one showing dancers Rikki Mason and Waangenga Blanco. Following is the Bangarra Dance Theatre's YES to Marriage Equality statement in its entirety.

Bangarra Dance Theatre was founded on values of kinship, cultural integrity and respect. These values are embedded within our artists, our Board, and our executive and administrative team.

Collectively, we must make it known that as a company, we fully support the marriage equality vote and are urging our incredible audiences to vote YES.

To stay silent on this issue would be a great disservice to the legacy of the many LBGTQI artists, collaborators and staff who have made such an extraordinary contribution to Bangarra over 28 years.

It would also contravene the spirit of reconciliation and togetherness that is the foundation of this inclusive and diverse company.

The motion to support marriage equality is unanimously endorsed by Bangarra Chair Michael McDaniel, Artistic Director Stephen Page, and Executive Director Philippe Magid; and the entire Board and staff.

Love is love.

I close with some photos taken at Sydney's Tamarama Beach during the October 8 event known as the Rainbow Walk – Bondi to Bronte – Supporting the "YES" Vote.

Related Off-site Links:
Same-sex Marriage Postal Survey Returns Hit 12.6 Million as Voting Closes – Natasha Christian (SBS, November 7, 2017).
Yes Vote on Top as Marriage Survey Closes – Katharine Murphy (The Guardian, November 6, 2017).
Australian Same-sex Couples Waiting to Get Married Tell Their Stories – Chloe Sargeant (SBS, November 14, 2017).
Two Australian Bishops: Respect Consciences in Vote Over Marriage Equality – Robert Shine (Bondings 2.0, September 25, 2017).
Stirred by Same-sex Marriage Vote, Australia's Youth Gets Serious – Colin Packham (Reuters, October 5, 2017).
Students Resist Catholic School’s Anti-Marriage Equality Program – Robert Shine (Bondings 2.0, September 15, 2017).
Churches Who Campaigned for 'No' Must Apologise to Gay Community – Keith Mascord (Sydney Morning Herald, November 7, 2017).
As Australian Vote Concludes, Catholics Should "Vote Yes" on Reconciliation and the Common Good – Robert Shine (Bondings 2.0, November 8, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The State of Marriage Equality in Australia (Part 1)
The State of Marriage Equality in Australia (Part 2)
Thank You, Frank!
Thoughts on the Australian Catholic Bishops' Latest Ploy in Their "Struggle for the Very Soul of Marriage"
From Australia, "Possibly the Most Beautiful Ad for Marriage Equality"
Lanae Erickson on Taking a Lesson from Down Under
The (Same-Love) Dance Goes On

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