Equality is worth it


October 22 2013 is one of those days that history won’t forget. On that day the ACT Legislative Assembly passed the Marriage Equality Bill 2013, serving to end marriage discrimination by giving same-sex couples equal marriage rights to heterosexual couples.

I was there in the assembly as this happened. I listened as Katy Gallagher, the ACT’s Chief Minister, and the Greens’ Shane Rattenbury spoke in favour of the bill. I cried, too, as Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr choked on his emotion, struggling to express how much this meant to him. In the ‘Reception Room’, I exchanged heartfelt smiles with friends, and helped to set up chairs for a packed room of people in love, their families, their supporters, their allies.

Supporters of marriage equality packed into the reception room to see the bill be passed.

Supporters of marriage equality packed into the reception room to see the bill be passed.

I’d never before been so struck by the power of politics to build a better society. I first joined the Greens in 2008 and have since trialled various methods of creating change. I’ve dabbled with unions, NGOs, grassroots collectives and election campaigns. And it’s hard sometimes to know, really, what difference it makes.

But on Tuesday October 22 I saw it make that difference. I saw the fruits come to harvest. If the ALP and the Greens didn’t have a majority in the ACT Legislative Assembly, this bill wouldn’t have passed. It’s that simple. This bill passed because people worked to get good politicians elected. And this bill – the consequence of those elections – will make a huge positive difference in many, many lives, for Kym’s mum, Alicia’s brother, and Geoffrey and his partner.

I relocated to Canberra in April 2013 to work on the ACT Greens’ Federal Election Campaign, ‘Simon Sheikh for the Senate’. I doorknocked extensively and was saddened to meet a lot of people who felt that politics was irrelevant to them. Nothing ever changed, politics didn’t make a difference in their lives. After hearing this so often, then seeing the Liberals’ Zed Seselja end up winning the ACT’s second senate suit, it was easy to harbour some doubts. But Tuesday put paid to those myths – on October 22, something did change, and now all in the ACT, regardless of their sexual orientation, have the right to marry the person they love.

Doorknocking for 'Simon Sheikh for the Senate'

Doorknocking for ‘Simon Sheikh for the Senate’

Our society is far from just. Doorknocking, I heard about the inequities in our health system, the difficulty of finding work. Humdrums concerns about traffic congestion also stem from social injustice: from condemning residents of outer suburbs to a lack of local services and an hour-long commute. So, although the ACT has taken a bold step in the right direction, many steps remain.

At least, however, I have seen myself the power of politics – the power of the Greens – to achieve justice. To right wrongs and to write history and to hew from the marble stone of Australia’s wealth a sculpture of a just society.

In future parliaments there will be Greens politicians and I will have played a part in making this so. Someday soon our federal parliament will end marriage discrimination for good and there will be other bills, and better laws, and they will make Australia a better place to live. I’m glad to be a part of this.

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