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What the Yes vote means

As I was standing with the thousands gathered at Prince Alfred Park on Wednesday November 15, we chanted before the live cross from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, “We will live with a no. We will live with a no.”

Ian Thorpe addresses an emotional gathering at Prince Alfred Park Photo: Andrew Collis
Ian Thorpe addresses an emotional gathering at Prince Alfred Park Photo: Andrew Collis

The reality was that we LGBTIQ+ people have been living with a no, constantly. I recalled the no from my previous church denomination: sorry, we will not be placing any gay clergy. A close family friend said at one point, “If you choose to be gay we would have nothing more to do with you.”

Or the no: “God has cursed you, there is no place in the kingdom of God for you and you are all going to die of AIDS” (as said by a well-meaning family member/friend to me when I began trying to deal with my sexual orientation).

No from feeling excluded by a small few at school at times, no from the local ministers’ association here in Paddington when I arrived in Sydney (St Francis and St George’s welcomed me).

I was thinking, we could have another no, sure. We will keep living, regardless of the outcome.

As we all awaited the announcement from the ABS I was with four others standing arm in arm. When the announcement came, we all were moved so deeply, crying and hugging each other. It was heartening to know that almost two out of every three responders in Australia voted “yes” (62 per cent).

I had believed that outside my bubble of Paddington Uniting Church and the inner suburbs of Sydney, the majority of Australians were still homophobic. I am heartened that this is not the case.

Despite my reservation about the whole vote process, and the stress, strains and trolling LGBTIQ+ people experienced during the campaign, to know that a good majority of Australians think that someone like me can get married means a lot more to me than I thought it would; that fairness and equality are values we hold.

Someone commented that they haven’t seen me smile so much ever. I must admit I was a little humbled and speechless as well.

Thank you.

And for all who voted “no”, I love you and respect you. This is not a win or a loss, it’s part of a painful progress toward inclusion in a difficult and challenging area of our human, civil and religious life. We are very privileged to be even able to have this conversation and discussion. I too may well have voted “no” 15-20 years ago for many reasons.

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