A YEAR ago today, Elisha and her colleagues were crowded around the television watching and waiting for the result of the same-sex marriage survey.
The news 61.6 per cent of participating Australians had said ‘yes’ to marriage equality brought a whole new meaning to the conversation she and her partner, Emily, had while they were stuck in traffic in Melbourne about 12 months earlier – a proposal so casual there was cause to ask, ‘Are we engaged?’
“I’m pretty sure I had tears,” Elisha said.
The couple was married on January 20 – a scorching hot summer’s day in Bendigo.
“Emily was eight months pregnant at the time,” Elisha said.
It was their wish to be married before they had children.
Their son, Liam, was born three weeks after their wedding.
Victoria’s Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages registered 1331 same-sex marriages from December 9 – two days after the legislation was passed in Parliament – to November 7, 2018.
Of those, 711 of the couples were female and 608 were male.
A further 12 couples registered marriages in which one party identified as unspecified/indeterminate/inter sex.
A total of 25,839 weddings were registered in Victoria during that period.
Harry McAnulty, of Bendigo Says Yes, said it was fantastic people could now marry the people they loved.
But he believed there was still an awful lot of hurt in the community from the survey, and a long way to go to address the inequality LGBTIQ people experienced.
“Marriage equality is only one part of the picture,” Mr McAnulty said.
He said the postal survey highlighted the need for organisations advocating on behalf of LGBTIQ people.
A local partnership including Friends Alike Bendigo and Central Victoria – or FAB CV – and LEAD Loddon Murray received an $80,000 grant from the state government in June to develop LGBTIQ advocacy and leadership within the region.
An organisation called LOUD has since been established.
Board member Suellen Pepperell said the LOUD aimed to amplify the voices of LGBTIQ community.
“A lot of our community cannot do that for themselves,” she said.
She was hopeful LOUD would empower community members – an aim the group is working towards by establishing two leadership retreats for emerging leaders within the LGBTIQ community.
LOUD is hosting a forum on November 28 at The National Hotel in Bendigo to further develop the retreat program.
Ms Pepperell said LOUD also aimed to represent and advocate for the community on issues of concern, such as the potential for a review into religious freedom to result in discrimination against LGBTIQ students and teachers.
Reports of the contents of the Ruddock Review prompted Scott Morrison to reassure the public he would amend the law to ensure no student of a non-state school could be expelled on the basis of their sexuality.
The proposed amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act have attracted the concerns of legal academics and practitioners, who this month sent an open letter to Attorney-General Christian Porter.
Compared with the height of the same-sex marriage survey stress, Elisha felt things had become a lot calmer.
There were times during the postal survey when she said she would encounter people within the Bendigo community campaigning for a no vote.
Elisha said the prospect of bringing a child into such an environment was stressful, at times.
“Bendigo Says Yes were just amazing,” the 33-year-old said.
She had others in mind as the first anniversary of the survey result rolled around.
“We’ve always been really well supported with family and friends,” she said.
“We never felt like we were different”.
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