The moment of 10am on November 15th in 2017 will be permanently etched into my mind for the rest of my life. That was the time that the results of the Australian same sex marriage plebiscite was announced. I was so scared that it would turn out to be another earth stopping Brexit or Trump-type result. But the Australian voters came through and provided an overwhelming “YES” vote. Over 12 million Australians voted with a national tally of 61% in favour of changing the laws to allow same sex marriage. This was an exceptional number of voters considering this was a non-compulsory postal vote (80% participation rate). All states and territories had a majority “YES” vote. 133 out of 150 electoral divisions had a majority “YES” vote. I was so proud of Melbourne city having the highest majority in the country with 84%. Even the district of my home town in regional Victorian recorded a majority “YES” vote (Wannon, 61%). Every age category also had a majority “YES” vote. The next step is for the Australian parliament to approve a bill to legalize same sex marriage.
I watched the broadcast from the Save the Children office. Everyone was crowded around the TV in the kitchen area. The 10 minutes while the Chief Statistician gave the details of how the survey was carried out and the strength and validity of the results seemed to drag on for an eternity. Although important, everyone just wanted to know the end result. Cheers erupted when he finally announced the results.
It was a huge relief and it took a little while to sink in how momentous this event was. Although I live in the US where same sex marriage is already legal, to have marriage equality granted to my fellow Australians is simply heart-warming. Actually, more like an explosion of joy. The right to marry the person you love regardless of their gender is something that I could not even start to imagine while I was growing up in regional Victoria. I hid my homosexuality from myself, my friends and my family until I was in my late 20s. I didn’t tell my parents until I was in my 30s for fear of rejection. It took a while for my parents to become comfortable. Its been an evolution. My mother voted “YES”, which would not have happened 10 years earlier.
I celebrated with my LGBTI family at the Melbourne Trades Hall after work. This is the second time during my PULSE assignment where I have been surrounded by thousands of strangers celebrating a victory (the first time was when Richmond won the grand final). Everyone was so friendly, hugging, kissing and sharing their joy. There were rainbow flags everywhere. Judy Garland would have been smiling down on us. Tears filled my eyes when the band sang “It’s a wonderful life”. Love is love. Always has been and always will be.