This morning I was lucky enough to watch Australian history being made.
At round 10am this morning I made my way over to the ACT Legislative Assembly to watch the Debate on the ACT Labor Government‘s Marriage Equality Same-Sex Bill take place. As I arrived a little after 10, I was told that the public gallery was full and was ushered into the small reception room next door. The room was decorated with balloons and I do believe a few rainbow flags made their appearances. Taking my seat, I sat down to watch projected live footage on a screen of the debate. It was absolutely incredible to feel the warmth, excitement and joy in the room as I looked around the room and saw proud faces of same-sex couples openly holding hands and sporting their rainbow accessories and flags. As we listened to Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury give his powerful speech, consisting of letters from members of the public who wrote of what the passing of this bill would do for them, I became aware of a couple behind me passionately expressing their agreement for his statements. In fact, the whole room was a buzz of nodding agreements, happy “aw”s and excited applause. So much so that the Speaker was forced to remind the public of the appropriate customs of the Legislative Assembly. While those in the gallery calmed down, upon speaking with MLA Shane Rattenbury he informed me that the cheers of all of us in the reception room could still be heard.
It was easy to see that the over 100 members of the public (some had even flown in from Melbourne and Sydney to be present) were passionate and personally effected by the Bill as many began to tear up. I felt proud to be keeping my tears in check, that is until Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr was brought to tears as he explained the importance of marriage equality laws to LGBTIQ families. But while Mr Barr valiantly held it together and continued bravely, I can’t say I did the same. I did indeed start tearing up. However, I cheered up when I began hearing Mr. Barr’s plan to make the A.C.T. the most LGBTIQ friendly territory in Australia. The “rainbow territory” as it were.
Approaching the end of the speeches, the Speaker called for the votes…”and the Ayes have it!” Nine members to eight. The noise that followed was deafening as everyone rose to their feet, screaming in applause. Once the amendments were passed (again another close call on 8 members to 7) everyone made their way into the foyer and were drawn in by the LGBT Canberra Qwire who fittingly sang “Love Is In The Air” in the chamber and everyone proceeded to join in enthusiastically. I was briefly able to speak with both Mr. Barr and Ms Berry before being whisked away and asked to be interviewed by Get Up Australia and Australia Marriage Equality on what the passing of the bill meant personally (if the interview is posted anywhere online later, I’ll link it on the blog.) Upon leaving the building we heard that activist Ivan Hinto had just proposed to his long time partner Chris Teoh. If you haven’t seen the video where this happens please check it out here.It’s one of the most heartfelt and adorable things I have ever seen. Check out the video here: Activist Ivan Hinton proposing to his partner Chris Teoh.
The first marriages in the A.C.T. are expected to take place early December.
Evening at the Chief Minister’s celebration drinks, there were rainbow jewels everywhere. Necklaces, bracelets, earrings, wrist bands – everyone was wearing something to show their support. The main concern on everyone’s lips was the likely overruling of the High Court. For those who do not know, the Australian Federal Government (which is currently conservative) is intending to take the newly passed bill to the High Court and have it over ruled as it directly interferes with the Marriage Act. However, it was known before the bill passed today that this would happen and it did nothing to deter the bill from being brought to the table. The optimism was blooming as people began to express that even if the bill is revoked, it was a large step for Australia to take in the way of Marriage Equality and when it comes to big change, the small steps multiply into more significant counters.
Congratulations A.C.T. you are the first in Australia to legalize Marriage Equality! Finally, as a bisexual lady, discrimination against the gender of the person I may wish to one day marry is no longer possible! BIG CHEER FOR AUS!!!!