Kathmandu (Pahichan) April 30 – You’ve likely heard of the big names in the marriage equality campaign: Rodney Croome, Anna Brown, Alex Greenwich. But to gain overwhelming support for legalising same-sex marriage in Australia it’s taken years of work from thousands of people. Here are a few young Australians who are at the frontline of the marriage equality debate, slowly but surely moving the country’s laws in the right direction.
Ollie Henderson is a person of many talents. An activist, organiser, fashion designer and model, Henderson uses her profile to speak up for marriage equality. “To stay silent is to submit to the status quo. We all have a responsibility to create the future and to speak out against injustice,” she says.
As well as speaking out publicly for marriage equality, Henderson supports the campaign by signing petitions, attending rallies, and fundraising (she has previously donated funds from her fashion label House of Riot to the cause).
You probably know Joel Creasey – actor, comedian, heartthrob – but you may not be aware of his activism for marriage equality.
Joel has spent years offering up his talent at benefits and public events to raise money for the marriage equality campaign. He also isn’t afraid to speak up in the media, calling the Prime Minister “spineless” for not holding a free vote on marriage equality.
This year, Joel has teamed up with just.equal and SKYY Vodka for their #CheersToEquality campaign. He’s got strong words for politicians who oppose marriage equality: “You’re on the wrong side of history. Just drop it. Love is love — let us do our thing,” he says.
Focused on gathering support from individuals of diverse faiths and ethnicities, Francis is a rising star of the marriage equality campaign.
As a gay Australian man of Malaysian-Chinese heritage with a Catholic-Interfaith background, Francis is determined to bring his unique experiences to his role as the Faith and Multicultural Outreach Coordinator with the Equality Campaign.
Late last year Francis organised a highly visible event, the National Forum on Faith and Civil Marriage Equality, that brought together leaders from Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities to engage in a positive dialogue about Civil marriage equality and LGBTQIA+ inclusion. At the end of the forum, the religious leaders signed a joint statement in support of marriage equality.
“We will be living with each other the day before, and the day after marriage equality is passed. Imagine the society we could create now if we aim to reach this place together,” says Francis.
Sally is one of Australia’s greatest soccer players, having represented Australia on the field over 62 times. Now that she’s hung up her boots, she’s playing for a new cause – marriage equality.
Sally’s just returned home after touring regional Australia with the Equality Campaign, galvanising support for same-sex marriage beyond the nation’s capital cities. The tour comes after years of using her profile to advocate for equal marriage rights for all.
She’s also a qualified marriage celebrant and officiates ceremonies for same-sex couples through her business Marry Us Sally.
You’ll remember the stark choice the LGBTQIA+ community had to make last year: whether to support a divisive plebiscite or to try to block it, even if that risked delaying marriage equality. The answer wasn’t immediately clear, and couldn’t be made without input from the LGBTQIA+ community.
Enter long-term LGBTI activist and advocate, Alastair Lawrie. Alastair conducted one of the first public consultations on the plebiscite – the largest survey of the LGBTQIA+ community on government policy ever conducted.
The consultation found strong opposition to the plebiscite and established the community’s call for parliament to block the plebiscite even if it meant a delay in marriage equality. The survey allowed LGBTQIA+ people to express their personal reasons for opposing the plebiscite and provided hard data on community sentiment. The combination was hard for progressive politicians to ignore.
While different political parties disagree on how we’re going to achieve marriage equality, there is an overwhelming bipartisan consensus that it should happen.
Sam is the President of the University of Wollongong’s Liberal Club and has been active in leveraging the power of the Young Liberals on the rest of their party. In 2015, he convened a petition calling for marriage equality, signed by the university’s Liberal Club, supporting marriage equality and calling for a parliamentary free vote.
Speaking about the rest of the Liberal party he said, “I wouldn’t call them out of touch, they perhaps need to broaden their perspective and see who this really affects: the couples who are being treated as second class.”
If you live in Sydney, you may recognise Enoch from powerful acknowledgements of Gadigal country, on which so many marriage equality rallies have been held. Enoch inspires thousands of people rallying for marriage rights to remember the intersecting oppression of homophobia with racism, sexism, transphobia, and Islamophobia.
A Tongan and Indigenous Australian and a descendant of the Bwgcolman people, Enoch is an active member of Sydney group Community Action Against Homophobia and is also involved in the organisation of Black Lives Matter Sydney.
The concepts of fairness, honesty, respect and equality before the law are principles Kate has always lived by in her career as a journalist in both rural and metropolitan Australia, as well as a community service volunteer of long standing.
As well as being a freelance media consultant, documentary producer and project manager, Kate speaks at community events and rallies for marriage equality around Sydney and volunteers her time to sit on the Equality Campaign’s community roundtable.
While being out and proud, this country-turned-city girl prefers to focus on sport, the arts and personal training, and her activism rather than her perfectly normal status of being both a trans person and a lesbian.
Melody dedicates their time building a strong relationship between the Catholic church and the queer community, harnessing the power of Catholics to collectively call for justice for LGBTQIA+ people.
Melody also sits on the board of Australian Catholics For Equality, an organisation built upon social justice values in the Catholic faith, and works to seek equality for LGBTQIA+ citizens in our church and society.
Melody is the administrator of Australia’s largest Facebook page dedicated to LGBTI+ activism and marriage equality, Equal Marriage Rights Australia and was a finalist for the Young Achiever accolade at the 2016 Honour Awards.
Koby Lance Bunney
Koby’s experience as a person from an Indigenous background living as part of the LGBTQIA+ community in a regional town spurred him to become a passionate advocate for regional LGBTQIA+ rights, with a central focus on building communities and connections to deliver change.
As the co-convener of Equal Love Ballarat, Koby has helped organised rallies and events in his community for years. He also frequently provides commentary and insight in the media, both when he’s a spokesperson for the community as well as on his radio show, Grind on JUZZ radio.
Feature image: Ollie Henderson/Supplied
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