Australia said 'yes' — 5 years ago today
The postal survey on marriage equality in Australia reported it's yes result five years ago today. Here are some of the best speeches of that period, and a New Zealand favourite from 2013.
It’s the fifth anniversary of the yes result in the postal survey on marriage equality in Australia. It wasn’t a referendum. It wasn’t a constitutional issue that required a referendum. Or a postal survey for that matter. Politicians could have sorted it out, made the necessary changes, respected basic human rights and fallen into line with a growing number of jurisdictions that have legalised same sex marriage, since The Netherlands became the first country to do so in 2000. (list of the 30 countries that have enacted marriage equality)
Whatever the pain that referendum inflicted, the result sparked celebrations across the country, and some excellent speeches. As a nod to the 5th anniversary, here are some of the best speeches of that time:
Dean Smith, Introducing Same-Sex Marriage Bill, November 16, 2017
This is such a beautiful and emotional speech. For me, the pause and choked tears before, ‘And I never believed the day would come when my relationship would be judged by my country to be as meaningful and valued as any other’ — it’s one of the greatest moments in Australian parliamentary history. It comes at 16.18 on this video.
As a young man, I never believed I could serve as a senior adviser to a prime minister or a premier, because I was a gay man. John Howard and Richard Court both proved me wrong.
I never believed that I could be pre-selected to be a Liberal Party candidate and senator. The Liberal Party proved me wrong.
I didn't believe my name would ever be accepted by the people at an election. The people of Western Australia proved me wrong.
And I never believed the day would come when my relationship would be judged by my country to be as meaningful and valued as any other. The Australian people have proven me wrong.
To those who want and believe in change — and to those who seek to seek to frustrate it — I simply say:
Don't underestimate Australia.
Don't underestimate the Australian people.
Don't underestimate our country's sense of fairness, its sense of decency and its willingness to be a country "for all of us".
Not only does our country live these values, it votes for them as well.
Magda Szubanski, ‘YES’ Victory Party
The legendary actor and TV comic was one of the main faces of the ‘YES’ campaign, and her speech at the victory rally is a gem. Unfortunately the sound seems to have dropped on the one facebook embed I had of the video, (there is a snippet here) but I transcribed the words at the time, and they are emotional and sublime:
None of us can live in a bubble where we try to pretend that other people don't exist. We must find ways to reach out our hands across the divide that's been created by this unfortunate survey, and go forward with a deep and good faith understanding of one another, as a nation.
I also think it's a moment for pure humble gratitude.
We are so lucky to live in this country. When we think about the other countries, where just for being who we are, we could be killed, bashed pushed off a tower.
And this sends a message that this country does not stand for that sort of behaviour, that this is civilised country, that this is a secular country, that this is a country that allows religious freedom. And this is a country that believes in equality and justice, and we've had virtually no leadership in this, we have led ourselves.
And so we can rely on the Australian people to do the bloody right thing.
Oh, I did promise I'd do an Irish dance if we won.
Tanya Pilbersek, ‘Australia said ‘yes’’, Victory Party
Tanya was a strong ally to LGBTIQ+ Australians throughout the years of struggle. She voted yes consistently for same sex marriage, and gave a memorable speech on the night of the victory.
And I want to send a special shout out to the 78ers, because really it all started, not so far from here, a long time ago, with people who were prepared to fight for equality, when no one in the Australian community backed them.
People who were prepared to be arrested, to lose their jobs, to come out to family that were unsupportive, who started that fight decades ago for equality that we are reaping the rewards of today.
Today is about all of you, and it’s about everybody who’s stepped up. Who stepped up to ask a question that no Australian should have to ask - am I equal?
It’s to all the supporters, the brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, grandparents, allies, who stood beside you, who doorknocked, who phoned, who wrote to their neighbours to ask a question that no Australian should have to ask - is my brother/sister/mum/dad/grandchild/friend/colleague equal in your eyes?
We should not have had to ask that question.
But we did ... and guess what the answer is a resounding yes.
Joel Creasey, Marriage Equality rally, Melbourne, 26 August 2017
My boyfriend he proposed to me.
He proposed that we see other people ....
But in that moment I realised that I truly do want to get married. It is my basic human right, I know I am such a diva these days ...
Like food, shelter, marriage, what’s next, clean drinking water, I am out of control ...
I heard somebody say the other day that gay marriage affects all Australians, it affects ALL Asutralians
Incorrect. It only affects the two people in love wanting to get married.
The only people being affected by gay marriage today is the Fitness First around the corner, because they are empty while every gay man and lesbian is at this rally.
Penny Wong, Opposing Plebiscite on Same-Sex Marriage, 9 August 2017
Before the victory, there was the heartache that this debate was going to be had in every home in Australia, that it was going to be a long, drawn out, vitriolic battle on top of all the other battles LGBTIQ+ people had fought. Penny Wong opposed the plebiscite, and spoke to the sort of garbage she and others had had to endure:
(you can watch on YouTube here)
I want to comment on the comment by Senator Cormann this could be a unifying moment and that people could be respectful. I hope that people watching me in this debate would not think I am a shrinking violet. I know what a hard debate is like. But I tell you, have a read of some of the things which are said about us and our families and then come back here and tell us this is a unifying moment. The Australian Christian lobby described our children as the stolen generation. We love our children. And I object, as do every person who cares about children, and as do all those couples in this country, same-sex couples who have kids, to be told our children are a stolen generation. You talk about unifying moments? It is not a unifying moment. It is exposing our children to that kind of hatred.
Maurice Williamson, ‘Big Gay Rainbow’ speech, 16 April 2013
To finish with, I’ll turn away from the big day in Australia and towards our neighbours across the ditch, who got it done four and a half years earlier than us on 17th April 2013. The day before, Maurice Williamson, who represented a conservative electorate, spoke passionately and hilariously about the pressure coming from his electorate, how much of it was misguided, and how the sky was not going to fall in. It’s a speech that went around the world. One day, I hope to have Mr Williamson on the podcast.
But I give a promise to those people who are opposed to this bill right now. I give you a watertight guaranteed promise.
The sun will still rise tomorrow. Your teenage daughter will still argue back to you as if she knows everything. Your mortgage will not grow. You will not have skin diseases or rashes or toads in your bed. The world will just carry on.
So do not make this into a big deal.
This bill is fantastic for the people it affects, but for the rest of us, life will go on.
Finally, can I say that one of the messages I had was this bill was the cause of our drought. Well, if any one you follow my Twitter account, you will see that in the Pakuranga electorate this morning, it was pouring with rain. We had the most enormous big gay rainbow across my electorate. It has to be a sign. If you are a believer, it is certainly a sign.
Can I finish, for all those who are concerned about this, with a quote from the bible. It is Deuteronomy. I thought Deuteronomy was a cat out of the musical 'Cats,' but never mind. The quote is Deuteronomy 1:29. 'Be ye not afraid.'"
Weirdly, when I see the Speakola statistics, I see that this speech is massive in Japan! Currently Japan is the only G7 nation that doesn’t recognise same sex marriage or civil unions, so the fight is still on, and this speech is one from a conservative, that can speak to conservatives. It’s great it’s getting some views.
Thanks to everyone who has taken up a paid subscription to Speakola. I’ll do some paid subscriber only posts at some point, and you get my books at a discount and access to the full archive of newsletter posts, but really it’s a way of saying thank you for seven years of speechly effort.
The current podcast features British comic Laura Lexx and her bride speech.
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