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.