About 500 people attended Geelong’s first marriage equality rally on September 19. It was largely a young crowd with the visible presence of the local Socialist Alliance branch, the Greens, local Deakin University students, and the Geelong Adolescent Sexuality Project, a local support service for LGBTI youth.
Speakers included Rowena Allen, Victoria’s first commissioner for gender and sexuality, who said, “Marriage equality is not inevitable unless we get out in the street and do what we’re doing. The $150 million cost of a plebiscite could be better used for support programs and a gender centre in Geelong.”
Other speakers included Victorian Greens Senator Janet Rice and Sue Bull, Socialist Alliance’s candidate for the Kildare ward in the council by-election.
Bull argued against the plebiscite, making the point that it would invite every homophobe and bigot in the country to project their views via the right-wing media. Such a scenario poses a dangerous period of time for vulnerable LGBTI youth in the community who already suffer high rates of suicide and homelessness.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is still adamant he will go ahead with a plebiscite, despite polls consistently showing more than 70% of Australians are in favour of marriage equality. Victorian convener of Australian Marriage Equality Tim Peppard said at the rally that a plebiscite is not something the community should fear.
However, the grassroots marriage equality campaign needs to actively campaign against a plebiscite and continue to demand that the government legislate for marriage equality sooner rather than later.