Four Years Later
Based on an original post written in 2018
With the Religious Discrimination bill going through Parliament at the moment, I remember the postal voting debacle of 2017 and look at what the government could have done, but did not, and what they did do, and should not have, I look back to the months leading up to the final voting deadline.
At the time my partner and I owned a well-known branded sandwich shop located in a food-court in the SE suburbs of Melbourne.
For weeks leading up to the enrolment deadline I encouraged people to check the electoral roll, I had flyers from AEC and "We are all Equal" badges from the Victorian Equal Opportunities Commission to give away. My shop got through almost 1,000 badges during the lead-up.
We also displayed Equality messages on our electronic display units, and on the whole, feedback was very positive, the only negative comments were that we could not keep up with demand for the badges, but people came back once we had more stock.
Riding on the back of the good will generated, I created a message on the receipt encouraging people to vote "YES". After it was posted on Facebook, it was seen by Mashable.com and became a major news story on a worldwide basis, in fact it was the highest treading news story of the week.
Then the hate started…
First the phone would not stop ringing from a right wing organized blitz. This traumatized the staff. Then the emails started, not to me, but to head office.
They were nasty people screaming that “the brand” is going to suffer because there will be a boycott on a massive scale. “How dare “the brand” ram their views down my throat,” said many in orchestrated unison.
Believe me when I say it became ugly, and that’s an understatement. But my views had nothing to do with the brand, this was my lone crusade, I just believe in equality.
After reports coming in from all over the world such as this from UK’s dailymail.co.uk the brand, reading some of the comments, needed to protect itself, while publicly stating 'that each store is a franchise and the owners view was their own view'; I knew that damage was being done, not just to the brand, but also to my staff and to my mental and physical health.
It was the first time that I’d ever experienced such vitriolic and irrational hatred. The closer to the vote date, the worse it became.
Then it all stopped.
The government announced a resounding victory for the “YES” vote. Marriage equality would become law.
That was four years ago, in the first year 5365 same sex-couples married in Australia (correct as of 15/11/2018). That’s 10,730 people directly affected by the change in the law in the first year alone, this does not include their family and friends, nor does it include those who married overseas and now have their marriage recognised in Australia. I’ve had the privilege of conducting some of those weddings and I hope to do a lot more.
Was it worth the pain? Hard to say, scars take a while to heal, even after four years. But would I do it all over again if I were transported back in time? Oh Yeah, if not for me, then for the 40,604 (correct as of 25/11/2021) same sex people who have married each other so far and have benefited from our struggle since the law was changed.