Politics

The Fight For Marriage Equality Isn’t Just For LGBTIQ Australians

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I don’t know what I’ll do when a letter arrives at my house, asking me to vote on my own equality.

What will the envelope look like? Will there be a letter with the ballot slip? Will the letter say, “Hey, yep — sorry about this, we’re just going to need you to post this letter back to us so some politicians don’t get mad at some other politicians. Also sorry for spending $122 million on this.”

Maybe I won’t send it back. Maybe I’ll refuse to participate in something so discriminatory and rigged against me. Maybe my queer gang and I will ceremoniously burn our ballots in a big gay fire pit.

Or maybe I’ll cast my Yes vote for someone who doesn’t have the privilege of a queer gang around them. Maybe I’ll send back a Yes vote on behalf of the closeted 18 year old who sits at her family dinner table and watches her parents tick the No box, and is forced to do the same.

Maybe I’ll send back a Yes vote for my friends Kate and Kristen, who got engaged three weeks ago and desperately want to marry the same way so many of their friends have.

Maybe I’ll send back a Yes ballot for Bon — an elder of the LGBTIQ+ community who paved the way for someone like me to have the life I do. He passed away without being able to marry his partner of 50 years, Peter de Waal.

I’m the marriage equality campaign director at GetUp, so I’ve spent years encouraging hundreds of thousands of people to fight for this. But I’m also a queer woman, and I honestly don’t know how it will feel to hold a piece of paper in my hands knowing it might have the power to define my worthiness under the law.

My community should not be singled out to have our value put to popular opinion.

Let me be absolutely clear: the postal plebiscite is an insult to our democracy, and to every LGBTIQ+ person and their families. My community should not be singled out to have our value put to popular opinion. It’s cruel, and completely unnecessary and — contrary to the line that the Prime Minister has adopted — it’s without a mandate.

The Liberal National Coalition have managed to find a way to circumnavigate the parliament who twice blocked plebiscite legislation, the LGBTIQ+ community who have repeatedly said they would rather wait than to endure the public campaigns, and the Australian public who have consistently rejected the idea of a plebiscite in every poll that presents the full details.

And yet here we are. So, wonderful straight and cisgender allies, it’s time for you to step up.

Campaigning to win this postal survey should not and can not be the responsibility of the LGBTIQ+ community. Right now, our priority has to be keeping each other safe and well.

We know that there will be advertising paid for by bodies claiming to be Christian who, in a display of spite and foul hypocrisy, will call us paedophiles. We know that the media will give a platform to opponents of LGBTIQ+ rights who will spout hateful misinformation about our families, to increase their clicks and boost their viewership. The ABC has already been gagged from using the words “marriage equality” and told to present the issue without bias. I didn’t know that human rights could be victim to bias.

We know there will be flyers like the ones distributed this week saying that children of LGBTIQ+ couples are more prone to substance abuse. We know that this debate will rage on everywhere we look for the next three months, while we just want to live our lives free from scrutiny. We know that the most vulnerable in our community — those who have far more important things to worry about than marriage equality, such as access to healthcare, employment and stable housing — are going to be the people who face the brunt of the public abuse, harassment and violence.

The postal plebiscite will be won or lost on how allies of the LGBTIQ+ community step up over the next two months.

Many LGBTIQ+ people will be out leading this campaign, but this can no longer be our sole responsibility. If LGBTIQ+ people want to go-to-ground, look after themselves and their families and boycott the survey — they have every right to, and damn well should. To my queer siblings who will choose to boycott: you have my love and support.

Everyone else, you are going to need to work twice as hard.

If you have ever put a rainbow filter on your Facebook profile picture, return your ballot paper the day you receive it.

If you have a friend, a family member or a co-worker who is LGBTIQ+, return your ballot paper the day you receive it.

If you have ever cringed at the words “one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others” at a wedding, return your ballot paper the day you receive it.

If you think we can’t afford a single person to boycott the vote and feel like you want to encourage your LGBTIQ+ friends to change their mind and participate, don’t. Instead, go out and find two young people and help them enrol to vote. Then make sure they return their ballot paper the day they receive it.

The postal plebiscite will be won or lost on how allies of the LGBTIQ+ community step up over the next two months. But our allies won’t just be stepping up on our behalf.

Marriage equality isn’t just about allowing LGBTIQ+ people to marry. It’s about creating an Australian society that values fairness and inclusion over prejudice and division. It’s about building a future for our children where every person is treated with equal respect and dignity.

It’s about saying FUCK YOU to the far-right faction of the Liberal and National parties who hold our government, and thus our entire country hostage to their out-of-touch prejudices and ideologies.

This afternoon, the Australian High Court will begin hearing a challenge to the postal plebiscite’s constitutionality, brought forward by the Human Rights Law Centre representing the Equality Campaign and Greens Senator Janet Rice. We don’t know what will happen, but there is a chance that we’ll be forced to this postal survey without consent from the parliament, public or LGBTIQ+ community.

I don’t know what I’ll do with my letter, but I do know that if forced to — I will campaign with every ounce of my being so that a Yes vote wins. Please join me. We can’t do this without you.

Sally Rugg is a Sydney-based LGBTIQ+ activist and GetUp campaigns director, focussing on the campaign for marriage equality. You can follow her on twitter @sallyrugg.