In August 2004, thirteen years ago, an amendment occurred which mystifies a large proportion of the Australian population: the John Howard government changed the wording of the Marriage Act to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. Every year since then, Equal Love has held a defiant yet joyous rally in protest, and this year is no different.
On Saturday 26 August, on the steps of The State Library of Victoria, Equal Love will again protest with an irreverent Mass Illegal Wedding where dozens of same sex couples will be married, with all the bells and whistles including an Equal Love issued marriage certificate. What is so beautiful about this protest is that it combats this needlessly discriminatory amendment by reminding people about what is at the heart of the debate about marriage equality.
It is a fight for the freedom of two people to make a private choice to celebrate their love publicly, proudly and in a legally binding way which is equal to that of heterosexual couples. This rally comes at a time where marriage equality is at the forefront of political debate. But it is not a question of love and civil rights, but rather an unnecessarily complex bureaucratic discussion. Malcolm Turnbull (who has publicly announced that he would personally vote in favour of marriage equality) is being held hostage by the vocal and staunchly conservative right of his party, his desperate attempt to hold on to his position and groups like The Australian Christian Lobby.A vastly expensive plebiscite was voted down in the Senate last year. The growing demand for a free MP vote even from within the Liberal party itself has been ignored. The Turnbull government has decided that as the motion to restore this plebiscite gets rejected again, as it was this morning, then they may run a voluntary postal vote on the issue.
Luckily, we don’t need to explain to you why this move is disproportionally discriminatory because our very own Malcolm Turnbull has outlined an argument himself, against postal votes in 1997:
“A postal ballot of necessity will only reach voters who are living at the address recorded on the electoral roll … This will particularly hurt young people, many of them students, who move more often than older people settled in families. It will also disfranchise Aborigines from remote communities who are often highly mobile.”
So not only will this vote not be an effective measure of whether the general population is in support of gay marriage, but it is likely to go to a free vote in parliament if the answer is “yes” anyway, as one last attempt for it to be voted down.
To counteract the cool procedural detachment of the politics surrounding this issue and bring the focus back to the real life effects that same sex marriage could have on actual people, there is no better time for an explosion of colour, love and theatrics – which will be Equal Love’s Mass Illegal Wedding.