BY ALEX EUGENE
Last Sunday an estimated 30,000 people marched down the streets of Sydney in support of same sex marriage, while thousands more also rallied in the Brisbane sister event.
YES Campaign spokespeople Kerryn Phelps, Alex Greenwich and Tiernan Brady made passionate speeches on the day at Customs House where the Sydney march concluded.
Last week the High Court ruled that the non-mandatory postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage would go ahead, to the dismay of campaigners who had hoped to prove the vote was unconstitutional.
But even so, high profile Australians from all walks of life have voiced their support for voting ‘Yes.’
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said last Sunday that the move would not threaten the institution of marriage, and that he was encouraging all Australians to vote yes.
“Many people will vote ‘yes’ – as I will – because they believe the right to marry is a conservative ideal as much as any other conservative principle,” he said last week.
“I am very firmly of the view that families are the foundation of our society and we would be a stronger society if more people were married and fewer were divorced.”
Even the Australian Law Council is a long-standing supporter of marriage equality. After the Marriage Act was amended in 2004 to reflect the “woman and a man” definition, the Council released a statement announcing support for same-sex couples.
“There is no sound basis on which a person’s gender or sexual orientation should continue to affect their rights and responsibilities under Australian marriage law,” said Fiona McLeod SC, President of the Law Council of Australia.
“We share concerns raised in the community about the potential for hateful, misleading and damaging material to increase during the postal survey period. While there are some safeguards in place under national, state and territory laws, additional measures are needed to protect individuals and ensure a respectful debate,” she said.
“Extending the right to marry to same-sex couples will not impact upon another fundamental right, freedom of religion. Ministers of religion are already permitted to conduct religious marriage ceremonies in accordance with the tenets and doctrines of their religion under s47 of the Marriage Act.”
“This will not change as a result of extending equality to same-sex couples. Given that the Government has decided to conduct a postal survey, and that there are now no legal impediments to this occurring, we urge a respectful and sensitive debate focused on the issue and the ultimate return of a ‘yes’ vote,” Ms. McLeod added.
500 religious leaders also sent an open letter to the Prime Minister in support of marriage equality in early September.
“As people of faith, we understand that marriage is based on the values of love and commitment and we support civil marriage equality, not despite, but because of our faith and values,” the letter stated.
An independent poll commissioned by the Equality Campaign revealed that the majority of Australians in significant religious groups are planning to vote ‘yes’ in the plebiscite.
Reverend Dr Peter Catt, an Anglican Dean said in a recent statement: “I see marriage equality as something I support because of my faith, it’s a matter of justice, and if we are really interested in humans flourishing then we should be enabling the form human expression which is being married to the person you love.”
Professor Allan Fels, Co-Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, said the same-sex marriage debate has increased discrimination against LGBTIQ people.
“Despite the fact the majority of Australians are supportive of LGBTIQ people, unfortunately, unacceptable sentiments are being expressed around the debate,” he said.
“LGBTIQ people have been experiencing damaging behavior in their workplaces, communities and in social and traditional media. The Commission is alarmed about the potential negative health impacts these debates are having on individuals, couples and families who face scrutiny and judgment,” Professor Fels added.
The Equality Campaign has released a video entitled #RingYourRellos, after the success of previous videos which received almost a billion views.
#RingYourRellos shows real-life conversations of Australians calling their friends and family members to ask for their support in voting ‘Yes.’
Executive Director of the Equality Campaign, Tiernan Brady said: “Over the next few weeks Australians will be having millions of conversations about whether or not gay and lesbian relationships are of equal value.
“There is nothing more powerful than when each and every one of us has a conversation with the people we know and hold dear. Real life conversations are incredibly powerful; they are what change hearts and minds,” he said.
Co-Chair of the Equality Campaign, and Independent MP for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, said: “The conversations across the nation that will change the minds of Australians aren’t the ones on TV or social media. It is the conversations between friends, families and work mates.”
“So get talking Australia and call your friends, family members, colleagues and team mates,” Mr Greenwich said.
Sydney’s revered film festival Queer Screen has announced that it will fundraise for The Equality Campaign this year. The festival will donate one dollar to the campaign for every ticket sold, and will provide three free screenings for everyone to enjoy. Queer Screen begins in October.