Published in Reportage Online, sponsored by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, on April 25, 2016; co-authored by Jemma Pepper
Supporters of marriage equality crowded the steps of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Sydney office, in protest against the Coalition’s proposed $160 million nationwide plebiscite.
The protest commenced at Darlinghurst at noon on Saturday April 9. Protesters marched from Taylor Square to Mr Turnbull’s Edgecliff office, chanting, “Gay, straight, black or white, marriage is a civil right!”
With around 72 per cent of Australians agreeing that same-sex marriage should be legalised, protesters believe a plebiscite will further delay the process of amending the Marriage Act in Parliament.
Mia Sanders, a member of the Socialist Alliance, said, “I’m concerned that the plebiscite isn’t actually binding: there are ministers who’ve said they’re not actually going to abide by a plebiscite anyway.”
Members of the LGBTIQ community say they are tired of waiting for an end to the ‘political football’ that marriage equality has become; as Mia said, people have “died waiting to marry those they love”.
However, other parties, such as the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), believe that a decision of such profound social and cultural significance should be considered at length prior to reform.
Mark Makowiecki, NSW Director of the ACL, said: “A plebiscite is the most democratic means we have to decide the issue freely and fairly.”
He said that if same-sex marriage is legalised, “basic freedoms and values” will be compromised, such as the biological right of children to know their mother and father; the ability for people to express their views that marriage should be a male and female relationship; the right for parents to have their children educated according to their own beliefs; and the freedom to speak freely and act in accordance with one’s conscience.
Some community members, such as Sally Rugg, GetUp! campaign director, feel personally victimised at the hands of the government. “Malcolm Turnbull has sold us out. For me and the LGBTI community, it’s personal,” she said.
A report released in March this year by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) says individuals within this community are often highly susceptible to institutional and interpersonal discrimination. The report notes that psychiatrists believe that the “delaying tactics” of the proposed plebiscite will only serve to further threaten, isolate and mitigate the already vulnerable LGBTIQ community.
According to statistics released by RANZCP, 20 per cent of transgender and 17.5 per cent of gay, lesbian and bisexual people surveyed have experienced suicidal thoughts.
Jenny Leong, the Greens Member for Newtown who is described as an “ally” of the LGBTIQ community, said at the rally she hoped the prolonging of the same-sex marriage discussion will soon be ended with its legalisation.
“We change the way society works by coming out here on the streets, by saying we do not deserve to be treated with inequality and with discrimination.”