Yesterday a skywriter wrote Vote No. When I saw it, I immediately thought ‘this is going to ruffle some feathers.’
I knew it would cause upset, hurt and outrage. Something about shouting your opposition to people’s love from the rooftops – or in the sky where no one can escape it – is so unsettling. And its not that I expect no voters to keep their opinions to themselves, but when your point of view necessarily depends on curtailing the rights of your fellow Australians (particularly when you enjoy those rights unopposed yourself) it really grates when you voice that opinion so gleefully.
I rolled my eyes, got a little hot under the collar and went back to my picnic lunch. When my son asked why anyone would write that in the sky I just said ‘because they don’t think people are equal.’ It was simple and true, and I thought I will help change that. And I hope he and his sister will carry the torch when they’re old enough.
And then I arrived home, tuned back in to social media and saw the real impact. People packing up their own picnic lunches at the park because their children couldn’t understand why they weren’t entitled to a ‘real’ family. Others writing heartfelt pleas for the rest of Australia to see them as equals. And one that will stick with me. For privacy I will paraphrase.
Imagine looking up to the beautiful blue Sydney sky on a glorious Sunday to see that your relationship wasn’t valid. That you were not valid.
Those two sentences stuck. For me this is about injustice, a lack of compassion and human rights. For some, this is simply about their life and how society views it as less than the norm. How their country wilfully discriminates against them. How their people accept a denial of their rights. How their fellow Australians walk past the inequality that frames their very existence and give it their tacit approval. And I imagined one of my children, nieces, nephews, friends children, maybe eventually grandchildren writing that post. Looking up to the sky and being reminded that they are not valued in the same way as the rest of Australia because of the way they were born. I think about my own son looking up and feeling that hurt so deeply.
I am unashamedly a yes voter. I can’t see anyway of defending a vote against equality. I’ve seen every argument, religious or otherwise and not one has been logical. Every single one is either a fear of losing a privilege you were born into or less commonly raw and undisguised bigotry. Religious freedom? Constitutionally protected under a completely different set of rules. Not in play. Worried abut children? Safe schools is already funded (or not in some states) and protects children. If you are genuinely concerned with the safety and well being of our children, then vote yes so that the children in rainbow families know they are valued. So that we don’t exacerbate the outrageously high suicide rates in gay teens. Worried about what will happen next? We know what is happening now and its fundamentally wrong – it goes against every ideal we hold true in a free society. Protecting against a possibility of the unknown does not outweigh the very lives and freedoms of your fellow Australians.
I’m not going to disown friends and family for voting no. I’m not going to try and convince them that they are on the wrong side of history. I’m not going to remind them that if this were 1900, they would be voting against women’s suffrage; that this is their historical equivalence. You have a right to your opinion and I have a right to be disappointed in it. But if you are thinking of voting no, know this: you are discriminating and it does hurt people. Immensely. You cannot get around that. Your vote is hurting people. Good people. Ordinary, run of the mill Australians that could be your next door neighbour, your child, your friend. You are hurting them and emblazoning it in the heavens. You are saying that you deserve more than they do. And if I’m being honest I’m disappointed in your choice.
Yesterday I was voting yes because it was a civil rights no brainer and to do anything else would make me unjust and discompassionate. And that’s still true today. But today I’m also voting yes because people are hurting and I can change that. There are so few opportunities to make a difference in this incredibly unfair world. But this week I can. I can send a vote that says ‘I’m with you.’ A vote that says ‘you deserve equality.’ A vote that says ‘your relationship is not invalid. YOU are not invalid.’