Western Sydney rallies for marriage equality

November 4, 2017
A ‘Western Sydney Says Yes’ rally was held in Parramatta on October 29.

The first LGBTQI rights march in Parramatta since 1983 was held on October 29.

It attracted more than 200 people to Centennial Square outside the Parramatta Town Hall before marching to the annual Parramatta Pride Picnic on the River Foreshore.

We gathered to ensure that those who had not voted in the marriage equality postal survey voted Yes, and to show support for our community in greater Western Sydney.

Newtown MP Jenny Leong who is the NSW Greens’ Sexuality and Gender Identity spokesperson addressed the rally, as did historian and author Shirleene Robinson, and Kylie Borland and Tim Ball from Sydney Leather Pride. 78er Gay Egg, who was present at the first Mardi Gras in 1978, chaired the rally.

Leong reminded us that “the Greens and the community have long fought this campaign. Labor and Liberal MPs and others across the political spectrum now know that all love should be treated equally and that no one in our society should be discriminated against. We will win this.”

Mia Sanders, from Socialist Alliance, said that “even though there’s a negative spin on the West for not supporting marriage equality, just being here [today] proves [that] we do.” (Full speech here).

Sanders, originally from Campbelltown summed it up saying: “Our history is one of struggle; it’s one of fighting for our rights; it’s one of taking to the streets. That’s true of every campaign that the LGBTQI community has won. This will be true of marriage equality when we win and we will win!”

Greater Western Sydney is made up of about 2.5 million people and, having grown up here, I know that many of us faced harsh prejudices for being different: we were bullied and some were bashed.

Many of our community lost friends, family support and jobs because of their sexuality.

In 1978, those of us now referred to as the “78ers” (from the founding Mardi Gras) and those before and after us, had no idea where our fight for equality would lead. But we knew it was the right fight.

We are not second class citizens: we are your friends, your family, your work mates, your student mates and your fellow community. We deserve the same rights as the rest of society.

We should have the right to choose marriage and have all of the rights that come with marriage. Marriage is one of the last major barriers to equality.

This postal survey has brought up many of those awful prejudices we fought so hard to remove. It has been a waste of $120 million on an issue that could have been resolved by a simple vote in the Parliament.

The federal Coalition government has been appallingly spineless for pushing this non-binding survey.

Over the years, many of us have fought for a better and fairer society.

Our earlier rallies called for support for “gays, women and blacks”. Imagine how that $120 million could have helped essential women’s’ services, genuine Indigenous support, homelessness and for better health and educational services.

Geoff Thomas from Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and a former Vietnam veteran told the rally that he was a “proud father of a gay son”.

“I consider my son to be extremely brave to have come out. I fought in Vietnam, and I was scared most of the time. I realised I had to look at my earlier attitudes — fear, ignorance and extreme prejudice — as I love my son…

“What this survey did was give a free kick to all the homophobes and transphobes and people hiding in the cracks of our society. This campaign has been hurtful to people. Be proud of who you are. You’re as good as or better than they are,” he told the rally.

It was a proud moment to march through the streets of Parramatta and be warmly greeted by many locals having lunch in the cafes.

[Steve Warren is a member of the founding group of Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras — the 78ers Collective.]

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