BENDIGO has loudly and proudly declared its support for marriage equality during a rally in the heart of the city.
Chants of “love is love” could be heard as people gathered at Rosalind Park in support of a ‘yes’ vote to the postal survey on same-sex marriage.
All levels of government were represented, including City of Greater Bendigo councillor Jennifer Alden, Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards, and federal Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters.
They all intend, or have voted, ‘yes’ in the hope all people will be extended the opportunity to marry the person they love.
Members of the LGBTI community took to a makeshift stage on the gardens surrounding the George Lansell statue, on Pall Mall, to express the importance of marriage equality and the community’s support.
“This is about dignity, it’s about respect and it’s about LOVE,” Bendigo Says Yes campaigner Harry McAnulty said.
Dja Dja Wurrung clanspeople also were among those vocalising their support for equality.
Ms Chesters called on those in attendance to do “some homework” in the lead-up to November 7, when the survey closes.
She asked them to encourage their family and friends to not only fill in their ballot forms, but to ensure they had been posted.
“We need to send the loudest message possible,” Ms Chesters said.
A sold-out fundraiser for the marriage equality campaign, on Friday night, raised $1400.
City says ‘I do’ to equality
PEOPLE turning out to Saturday’s marriage equality rally in Bendigo weren’t just concerned by whether or not couples had the opportunity to walk down the aisle.
“It is about fairness and the right for same-sex couples to have the same respect, legal recognition and next of kin status as heterosexual couples – to have their love and commitment recognised equally,” City of Greater Bendigo councillor Jennifer Alden said.
She cited the human rights charters of both Victoria and the city in her speech in support of the Bendigo Says Yes campaign.
“The City of Greater Bendigo Human Rights Charter states that ‘all people are born free and equal in dignity and human rights’,” Cr Alden said.
“I interpret that it is my responsibility as a councillor to exercise my democratic right to have my say and speak up in supporting human rights, and also in support of a truly inclusive society.
“One characterised by freedom, respect, equality and dignity, as stated in our charter.”
The council, as a whole, has yet to take a stance on the Australian marriage law postal survey.
However, all levels of government were represented at Saturday’s rally – and all were supportive of a ‘yes’ vote.
Bendigo Says Yes co-chair Harry McAnulty thanked each and every person at the rally for their support.
He said it was a clear message for the government.
“This rally is about dignity, it’s about respect, and it’s about LOVE,” he said.
As much as it was an issue of love, Bendigo Says Yes campaigner Tashara Roberts said the survey had elicited a lot of hate from some members of the community.
“Now more than ever, we need to support each other,” she said.
Though she has no desire to get married, at this stage, Ms Roberts said she and her queer friends ought to have the same opportunities as any other member of the community.
“I’m not equal to my heterosexual sister, through no fault of my own,” Ms Roberts said.
“Why do I not deserve to have equal rights?”
LGBTI people in need of support can contact Switchboard/QLife on 1800 184 527 from 3pm - midnight for support or chat online.
The 24-hour 13 11 14 Lifeline hotline and 1300 659 467 Suicide Callback Service are also available.
Show of support for LGBTI community
Melbourne-based drag queen Matilda Finish could not have been more proud of Bendigo on Saturday.
“I’m from Bendigo originally,” she said.
Standing behind Bendigo Trades Hall, in Rosalind Park, she was surrounded by people waving placards, posters and rainbow flags in support of the LGBTI community and marriage equality.
“It’s amazing,” Matilda said.
Families with young children were among those to parade to Pall Mall through the park.
“It’s really important to support the LGBTI community at this time,” Melissa Abel, of the Bendigo Says Yes committee, said.
She attended with her three and four-year-old daughters.
A Bendigo man, who requested anonymity, said he had been fighting for equality all his life.
Homosexuality was illegal when he first came out.
By the time it was decriminalised, Australia was in the grips of the HIV/AIDS crisis.
“It’s been a long, long struggle and we’re still fighting for our rights,” he said.