Students call for university to support marriage equality

October 28, 2017
Rachel Evans, third from left, at the protest.

This speech was given by Rachel Evans at an action called by the Queer Undergraduate Action Collective (QUAC) calling on the University of Sydney's Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence to support the Yes campaign for marriage equality.

* * *

My name is Rachel Evans and I helped kickstart the marriage equality campaign in 2004. Last year, I was the queer Office Bearer with Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA).

I want to acknowledge we are here on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation and this land was never ceded. Let’s recognise the seminal battle by Aboriginal activists for the right to marry whom they chose — a battle not won until 1959. The ripples of their victory resonate today, in our campaign to lift our rainbow community out of the infantilised place the Liberal and Labor parties have kept us in.

I want to also applaud the courageous undergraduate queer activists who've called this action and the action a few weeks ago that took aim at the No campaigners. Your actions have emboldened less-organised queer youth and your tenacity and persistence is exactly what we need to win this postal vote and to get a marriage equality bill put and passed.

Last year we launched the Rainbow Campus campaign to demand university management sign the marriage equality pledge, provide gender awesome bathrooms, change trans student names and provide comprehensive LGBTI staff training.

Management fly the rainbow flags at Mardi Gras time, but they looked a bunch of young queers in the eyes and flatly refused our simple request. Management said the real sticking point in our Rainbow Campus log of claims was the marriage equality pledge. Sydney University bucked the trend. A range of universities signed the pledge — Deakin, Monash, UTS, Curtin and the University of Western Australia — but not Sydney University.

A month after the Orlando shootings we hosted the largest indoor same-sex wedding at Sydney University and invited Spence and management to come along. They did not. In fact, they asked us to clean up the glitter we had left outside their offices.

Spence is part of the No campaign, let us be entirely clear. He is a conservative Anglican, from the same vein as the church reactionaries that just gave the No campaign $1 million.

The university has $250 million in surplus and $1.8 billion in assets. The training of staff and making toilets gender awesome are not hard with all this money. They choose not to spend it. Instead they try to placate us with superficial baubles — flags and Ally Awards — but refuse to sign a marriage equality pledge.

It is actions like these which will force Spence's hand. With this energy, we will throw bigoted corporates like Spence into the dustbin of history.

People's power gets the goods. The rainbow community needs to remain vigilant and continue to rally and protest.

[Rachel Evans is SUPRA Education Officer and an organiser with the Socialist Alliance in Sydney.]

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