As postal ballots for the Federal Government’s marriage equality plebiscite begin to find their way into letterboxes around the country Sydney’s creative community is banding together to support the LGBTIQ community.
In the wake of last weekend’s incredible show of support for the issue by the general public the Reclaim The Streets organisation will be conducting another event next weekend to stress the importance of submitting your vote early.
“We know getting people to vote in the first few days after they receive their ballots is critical,” said Reclaim The Streets representative Jack London, “The long period in which we can return the ballots is designed to suppress the vote. It removes the urgency of returning the ballot, so it gets put off and ultimately lost, damaged or forgotten. So we’re running a free music festival in the centre of Sydney to draw the public out for a Mass Postal Vote early on.”
Distractions such as those mentioned by Jack and many others are being implemented by the anti-marriage equality side of the debate. For Peter Fraser and Gordon Stevenson, two of the first people in Australia to take advantage of the change to the law in the United Kingdom by marrying in the British Consulate, the attempt to distract from the main issue is concerning.
“Inflammatory remarks around children and religion has caused the opening of a lot of old wounds. These are side issues designed to distract from the main issue,” explained Mr Fraser before quickly adding, “Same sex couples already have kids and can and do adopt. No one is going to force a gay wedding in St Mary’s Cathedral, who would want that?”
Reclaim The Streets Sydney rebooted in September 2014 and has since run 11 protest festivals pushing back against Westconnex, the Lockout Laws, Gentrification and Queerphobia.
In regards to marriage equality Reclaim The Streets were drawn into the debate because as Jack London told us, “Most of the organising collective are queer, and all of us have friends or family who are going to be hurt by this campaign. We are all extremely worried that a victory for the ‘no’ side will unleash a wave of bigotry, harassment and violence against queers.”
This concern is not unfounded as some members of the LGBTIQ community have already witnessed a rise in homophobic behaviour.
Cameron Reynolds, a highly respected teacher who recently married his partner in New Zealand, told us that he has been “taunted at work, told that all gays should be killed” and even “physically ushered out of a shop” when shopping with his husband.
Having recently had a wedding overseas due to the lack of marriage equality in Australia Mr Reynolds explained that whilst it was still a special day for them it also came with a touch of sadness.
“Our wedding was wonderful, we had an amazing time. It did impact on our family and friends though with many not being able to attend due to financial reasons associated with an overseas wedding or health risks with flying. So we had a lot of great friends miss out because we couldn’t be married at home and that makes us sad.”
For Peter Fraser and Gordon Stevenson it is disappointing to still not have their wedding recognised here.
“Our wedding was bitter sweet after the joy of the ceremony to come out out of the Consulate onto Australian soil knowing our marriage is not recognised in Australia…” said Mr Fraser, “Three years on Australia still hasn’t caught up, we’re not legally wed here and when I introduce Gordon as my husband, people think I am either being tongue in cheek or I have to explain. It’s like yes we’re married… but not really, it doesn’t count here.”
It is stories like this one which a change in the Marriage Equality laws could very easily eliminate. However the Federal Government’s decision to open this issue up for debate has created an environment for a hurtful and toxic campaign which is impacting many within the LGBTIQ community already.
For Val York, a DJ and music producer, who describes herself as a bisexual woman says this entire debate is “reopening those wounds I had personally as a child, it feels similar to when I was being bullied in high-school but now it’s on a more grand scale.”
Mr Reynolds fears that “if this campaign can obliterate my mental health as a confident 29 year old who is comfortable with his sexuality and has a strong family support network you can only imagine the extent that it will impact LGBTIQ youth with developing brains and psyches, who are not yet comfortable in their own skin and who feel they don’t have any support.”
It is this sense of fear and lack of support which Reclaim The Streets hopes to allay with their Signed, Sealed, Delivered Music Festival For Marriage Equality on September 23.
“I was thrilled to learn that Reclaim The Streets were organising this event because they have such a huge pull and the people that support them are also very open minded people.” York said.
Sydney’s creative community has a long history with the LGBTIQ community so to see them once again joining forces in support of Marriage Equality comes as no great shock. As York said, “music and all forms of art will always have a part to play in social issues such as this one.”
Sep 23, 1pm. Prince Alfred Park, Chalmers St, Surry Hills. FREE. Info: www.facebook.com/RTSsydney
If this article has raised an issues for you please seek help through the following organisations:
Twenty10 – www.twenty10.org.au or Ph. 1800 184 527
ACON – www.acon.org.au or Ph. 1800 063 060
Beyond Blue – www.beyondblue.org.au or Ph. 1300 22 4636