People who were at the 15 May rally – Melbourne’s contribution to the International Day of Action against Homophobia (reported in part on this site– were saying that it was larger and more colourful, but Saturday’s rally was still large, colourful, and very loud… It also featured an exceptionally long list of speakers, though the crowd’s patience at the State Library was only noticeably tried by ALP’s Cathy Bowtell – see below.
After the speeches there was a march, not to Parliament House this time but to the Old Treasury Building, which houses the Victorian Marriage Registry. There broadcaster and activist Jenny O’Keefe, who is also a registered marriage celebrant, performed a marriage ceremony for a large number of couples, providing each with a signed certificate, which under the present legislation will not be recognised by the state. Which brings us back to the theme of the rally.
Video footage of the day’s speeches and the march is in preparation.
Photos from the State Library:
Monique Schafter, known amongst other things from the ABC’s Hungry Beast, was MC. She saw it as ‘powerful stuff’ ‘fighting for equal rights just a week before a federal election. She listed some other places around the world where same-sex marriage is a hot issue – Argentina, ‘Proposition 8’ in California, for example – while in Australia the situation has not been so positive…
Wurundjeri elder Annette Xiberras gave a moving Welcome to Country, prefacing it with an account of her own experiences of institutional and personal discrimination following the death of her partner.
Eilis Hughes from Rainbow Families Council said, amongst other things, that recent research from the University of Queensland had shown that three-quaters of queer parents wanted to be married. Some have got married overseas in countries where it is legal, but the Australian Government still wouldn’t recognise these marriages. Some don’t want to get married, but all want their kids to grown up in families that have the same status as their friends’ families. She has a three-year old, and intends to take her to her local member, Julia Gillard, to answer the child’s question ‘why aren’t you married?’. She recalled that access to IVF for lesbians had been won by people power, a sign that change can be achieved.
Anthony Bendall, co-convener of the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, acknowledged the elders of the Wurundjeri people, but also all those who had gathered [at the State Library] in the past, making the site so significant to Melbourne … [for] protest, struggle and dissent. He also referred to the recent court decision in the US. It was a national disgrace that the 2004 amendments to the Marriage Act in Australia explicitly excluded gay men, lesbians, and many bisexual, transexual and intersex people from marrying under Australian law. “The Marriage Act is underpinned by the view that our relationships and commitments are inferior and that we can never be full and equal members of Australian society. That is why it must be changed.”
MTV host Ruby Rose, having got everyone to hug the person next to them, added “It’s 2010 guys, and when is the government going to start listening and realise that we should be able to get married just like anybody else?” It was not just a question for people who want to get married, but of having the option…
Actor and singer Adrian Li Donni sang “So Close”, even getting a reaction from the huge Julia Gillard puppet which by now had joined the gathering:
ALP candidate for the seat of Melbourne Cathy Bowtell did her best to defend the Labor Government’s record on reform, citing changes to industrial laws, but was loudly heckled and all but shouted down when calling for the ‘hard slog of building coalitions’ etc…. There were loud calls of ‘Vote Greens’ and indeed, she was forced to make her speech against a backdrop of Greens placards.
Adam Bandt – who followed Cathy Bowtell, and is the Greens candidate for the same seat – was greeted with loud cheers. He condemned the two major parties for their concentration on voters in a handfull of marginal electorates, as if the rest of the community didn’t matter. Instead of a vision for a fairer and more sustainable Australia ‘what we’ve had is a competition for who can be the toughest on asylum seekers, who can delay action on climate change the most, and who can take the most hardline and conservative position against gay marriage.’ He undertook that if elected he would make it a priority in his first term to get another vote on the Act, to remove discrimination, and that they [the Greens] would keep doing this ‘until the laws of this country recognise the very basic principle, that love is love, and love makes a family.’
Polyfilla in full flight
Kath Larkin, National Union of Students Queer officer, introduced herself as ‘a second-class citizen of this country’. She had been 15 when the Howard Government passed the laws banning same-sex marriage. This had had a noticeable impact on her and her classmates: “Bigots were given a great big flashing green light, and they ran with it.” But there had been resistance, and now there is ‘overwhelming support from the majority of Australians.’ She went on to discuss the mental health aspects of discrimination – LGBTI people were at least six times more likely to commit suicide -“Homophobia kills!” – but on the other hand research in the US had shown that where same-sex marriage had been legalised, homophobic violence had decreased, and the mental and physical health of LGBTI people had improved.
Ali Hogg, Melbourne convener of Equal Love, rounded off this stage of proceedings by expressing thanks to a long list of those who had helped make the day, before launching the march.
Also at the rally:
On the march:
On the steps of the Old Treasury Building
Jenny O'Keefe signing a marriage certificate
See report on Equal Love website, and there is a large collection of photos on John Wilson’s blog