Friday (7 December) marks one year since Australia’s same-sex marriage bill passed parliament.
In the first half of this year alone, more than 3,000 same-sex couples got married in Australia. The fight for marriage equality, however, had been rumbling in Australia for years before that.
Member of Parliament Alex Greenwich and historian Shirleene Robinson, both of the Australian Marriage Equality campaign group, have detailed that journey in a new book. Yes Yes Yes: Australia’s Journey to Marriage Equality was released last month.
It gives a behind-the-scenes look at some of the critical moments in the fight for equal marriage. From Prime Minister John Howard’s move to outlaw same-sex marriage in 2004 to the Tony Abbot administration launching a public vote.
Gay Star News spoke to co-author Alex Greenwich about the new book.
What was your motivation to write the book?
Shirleene and I wanted to share and celebrate the stories of the thousands of people who worked across Australia, and for well over a decade, to achieve marriage equality. In doing so we hope to encourage and inspire people to get involved in social justice campaigns and keep shaping Australia as a fairer and more equal place for all.
What does it reveal about Australia’s bid for marriage equality?
It reveals Australia’s journey to marriage equality was not easy, yet with every set back the movement empowered supporters to take on the next challenge. We never took no for an answer and we eventually got to YES.
What are some of the most poignant or pivotal moments detailed in the book?
The friendships that formed during the movement and how they were critical to the achievement of marriage equality. Shirleene and I worked alongside each other through good times and bad, yet despite the pressure we were constantly under, we still managed to write a book together. Also, the stories of my friendship with Sarah Hanson-Young, Tim Wilson, and my co-chair, were some of my favourite parts.
Also the mixed emotions that happened on the day that marriage equality passed the parliament. There was the joy of accomplishment, but also a sense of grieving that what had been a part of my life for over a decade was coming to an end.
A year after the bill passed, what do you think has changed in Australia?
Over 5,000 couples have got married and Australia is a fairer and more equal place. The strong momentum that followed has been seen in the public’s strong reaction and calls to end discrimination against LGBTI students and teachers.
We are more equal under the law. Butm the campaign the opponents of marriage equality ran against our community has had a negative impact on the health and well being of LGBTI Australians young and old, and the opponents should apologize for their the conduct and the damage they caused.
Tens of thousands of young people got on the electoral roll, and we have seen them sending strong messages in the recent Wentworth by-election and Victorian State election.
With other marriage equality bids in the region facing hurdles, what can other countries learn from Australia’s journey?
The understanding that you may lose many times before you win, but to make sure you turn every setback into an empowering moment by giving supporters an action to take. Whether its contacting lawmakers or attending rallies, don’t get mad get equal.