For the next two nights, the Melbourne Town Hall will be lit up in rainbow colours as a display of the Melbourne City Council’s support for marriage equality.
Sure the Town Hall will look more glamorous than ever before. But this is more than one colourful gesture.
Last night, the council endorsed a motion to not only pledge support for marriage equality, but to launch a campaign to, in their words, “take a leading role in promoting respectful dialogue at a time when an acrimonious public debate about marriage equality may be damaging to health and wellbeing of members of the LGBT community.”
Basically, councillors are aware how painful the plebiscite debate is on LGBTQIA Australians, and they’re on a mission to ease that pain. They’ll be putting up pro-marriage equality signage on the Town Hall this week, and taking over the huge billboard above Young and Jacksons (opposite Flinders Street Station) with similar signage. Shop owners will also be able to collect #voteyes stickers to display in their windows in the coming weeks.
“When I think of Melbourne I think of equality,” said lord mayor Robert Doyle today. “I want Melbourne to take pride in its tolerant, welcoming, diverse culture. I believe all of our residents should have the opportunity to marry, if they wish.”
Here is where the rainbow lights on the Town Hall start to shine even brighter. If you’d asked me a few months ago how I’d feel about this announcement, of course I would’ve said “pleased”. But right now, being publicly supported by my own local government doesn’t feel satisfying – it feels necessary.
You see, as a queer woman, this month hasn’t been easy. In fact, it’s been pretty bloody awful. It’s not just that this glorified opinion poll is a) unnecessary, given that we know that at least 60 per cent of Australians support same-sex marriage, b) ridiculously expensive and c) non-binding. You already know all of that stuff. The hardest part of this debate is that slowly and insidiously, it’s been chipping away at my self-esteem and mental well-being. It’s a feeling shared by many in my community..
At this moment, we are being told that we’re lesser. That we don’t deserve the same civil rights as heterosexual couples. That our children are a “stolen generation”. As Penny Wong argued, we’re being used as political footballs. This isn’t a partisan issue – it’s a human rights issue.
Having a straw poll anyone can join on whether I deserve the same rights as straight people really, really sucks. I don’t feel represented or supported by my federal government. I feel judged, humiliated and so, so tired of it all.
So when my local government announces that they’re behind me and my queer community, it means a lot. The coloured lights and billboards are cool glasses of water on 40-degree days. They’re teachers or parents tapping you on the shoulder and saying, “hey, we can see you’re being bullied, and we’re going to help you out”.
If you’ve got LGBTIQA mates that are suffering right now, take a leaf out of the council’s book and remember that small acts of support go a long way. Enrol to vote, then post about it on Facebook. Tell your queer friends or family members that you’re voting ‘yes’, even if you’re sure they already know you will. Buy them a coffee one morning to remind them you care.
Soon, if enough of us stand together and vote yes for equality, love will win out. It has to.