This has been a cam­paign of re­spect­ful persuasion


ACROSS the coun­try to­day, thou­sands of peo­ple will gather in parks, cafes and work­places to hear the re­sult of the postal sur­vey on mar­riage equal­ity.

At kitchen ta­bles cou­ples will hold hands as they wait in love and in hope. Some of us will face the news sur­rounded by fam­ily and friends and oth­ers will face it alone. We wait to dis­cover the an­swer to the sim­plest and most nat­u­ral of re­quests — to be treated the same as ev­ery­one else in our fam­i­lies and coun­try.

Win­ning mar­riage equal­ity is not and can­not be about beat­ing any­one — win­ning for LGBTI peo­ple is when we per­suade oth­ers that we should be treated the same as ev­ery­one else. Real vic­tory for LGBTI peo­ple is when they are fully ac­cepted for sim­ply be­ing who they are and are free to get on with their lives with the same dig­nity and as­pi­ra­tions as ev­ery­one else. That will not hap­pen by shout­ing at those we have yet to per­suade but rather through re­spect­ful con­ver­sa­tion and re­as­sur­ance.

There are many we have yet to per­suade, many who will have filled in the sur­vey with a tick in the No box. Mar­riage equal­ity must not be the end of our quest to per­suade those peo­ple. Mar­riage equal­ity must not be a mo­ment where they feel alien­ated from the so­ci­ety they are full mem­bers of. As LGBTI peo­ple, we know all too well what the feel­ing of ex­clu­sion and marginal­i­sa­tion is like and we must do all that we can to make sure no one else feels like that.

Mar­riage equal­ity can and will be a mo­ment of national joy and unity. No one has any­thing to fear from treat­ing LGBTI peo­ple fairly and af­ford­ing them equal sta­tus and dig­nity.

No­body will be less mar­ried and no­body will be more gay if ev­ery­one has ac­cess to civil mar­riage. No one needs to be pro­tected from any cit­i­zen sim­ply ac­cess­ing the law of the land on an equal foot­ing.

It is our con­fi­dence in those truths that should drive us to reach out to those who we did not per­suade dur­ing the sur­vey as we con­tinue to try to re­as­sure and per­suade.

Thank­fully we al­ready know this is not a fool’s er­rand, for it is only through reach­ing out to per­suade that we have con­vinced peo­ple in the past. Sup­port for mar­riage equal­ity has dou­bled in 15 years in Aus­tralia and the rea­son for that is re­spect­ful persuasion. Just as so many have won over their fam­ily mem­bers, neigh­bours, work col­leagues and team­mates over the years, so too must we now con­tinue that work.

That sim­ple prin­ci­ple of re­spect for those we seek to per­suade has un­der­pinned the ap­proach of the Yes cam­paign through­out. This has to be as re­spect­ful a jour­ney as pos­si­ble be­cause the one thing that is ab­so­lutely cer­tain is that we will all have to share the same com­mu­ni­ties and work­places to­mor­row. How we cam­paigned was there­fore just as im­por­tant as why we cam­paigned.

Across the coun­try over the past few months peo­ple have done that in their tens of thou­sands. They have done so with a dig­nity that has won hearts and minds and a re­lent­less pos­i­tiv­ity that will help bring about the so­cial peace we all de­sire in the wake of this sur­vey.

That is not to say it has been an easy jour­ney. This has been tough on LGBTI peo­ple and we must all recog­nise that. It has been a vote on their lives and they have rightly felt like they have gone through a process of be­ing weighed and judged by the so­ci­ety they are part of.

The LGBTI peo­ple of Aus­tralia have been sub­jected to a dis­hon­est, mis­lead­ing and vi­cious cam­paign, yet in the face of this they never al­lowed them­selves to lose their dig­nity or to go neg­a­tive.

They knew in their hearts that that would not be the jour­ney that would de­liver the change they needed. They knew that the ter­ri­ble things said by peo­ple against them were not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of those peo­ple they had yet to per­suade — just as they knew the fringe voices from their own side that howled to go neg­a­tive were not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of them.

So they kept their pos­i­tiv­ity, their dig­nity and most im­por­tantly their smiles as they stretched out their hands and kept talk­ing. No mat­ter what hap­pens to­day, to­mor­row and be­yond in our shared jour­ney, it will be those peo­ple across the coun­try who sim­ply stood up and re­spect­fully told the peo­ple around them “here I am and all I wish is to be in­cluded” that will have changed ev­ery­thing for­ever.

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