This article first appeared in 10 Daily.
We are one year on from the first and probably only time in Australian history that an Australian Bureau of Statistics data release stopped a nation.
The public vote on marriage equality for LGBTIQ Australians was a bruising time. This anniversary comes with mixed feelings, with wounds that have only just begun to heal for some, and many more psychological scars may last a lifetime.
Yet there is cause for much celebration -- the 15,000 volunteers, the millions of conversations with family and friends and workmates, the record door knocking -- that got us to YES, all provide a beacon of hope for the future.
Last year, Australians worked together and changed the course of our nation’s history. Millions of Australians stood up for the dignity of LGBITQ people and our love and relationships, and shaped Australia as a fairer and more equal place for all.
In the face of an obscure unnecessary process that diminished and degraded the worth of LGBTIQ people, we learned that we could trust Australians to do the right thing and stand up for their family, friends, neighbours, workmates and teammates.
And there is no turning back. The public vote last year has reset the political conversation between LGBTIQ people and our nation’s leaders in a profound and positive way.
The review into religious freedom designed to appease the ‘no’ side has now shone a spotlight on special privileges granted to religious institutions and schools, helping to break the political paralysis around exemptions in discrimination laws that many of us have long argued are inappropriate and out of step with contemporary Australian values.
Many ordinary Australians have been shocked to learn that faith based schools have wide ranging exemptions that allow them to expel trans or gay students and hire or fire teachers because of their sexuality or gender identity.
Australians voted for less discrimination last year, not more.
Our landmark report into conversion therapy last month was met with similar surprise when Australians learned that LGBT people in in this country are subjected to harmful and futile attempts to ‘cure’ them of their sexual brokenness.
These practices are widespread among many faith communities and are harming young people across the country. We need stronger laws and a national response to this issue.
We now have a window of opportunity to move forward and ensure our laws embrace LGBTIQ people just as the majority of Australians did last year.
Like many, I feel particularly compelled to support and amplify the voices of some of the most vulnerable within the LGBTIQ community.
Transgender people may now be able to marry the person they love, but in many states and territories they are forced to undergo unnecessary surgery before they can be recognised for who they are. We need to ensure our birth certificate laws are updated so that trans and gender diverse people are treated with dignity and respect when applying for a job or accessing basic services.
Intersex infants are still subjected to so-called ‘normalising’ surgeries that are medically unnecessary and performed without their informed consent. We need to ensure that intersex people are supported to make their own choices about what happens to their body.
Bullying and discrimination against LGBTIQ people causes staggeringly high rates of mental illness, self-harm and suicide, particularly for LGBTIQ young people in our schools. The no side’s proxy war on a legitimate anti-bullying program for LGBTIQ students was one of many attacks on LGBTIQ young people. We’re still undoing the damage caused by their misinformation and lies.
The YES result showed us what we already knew. We are more powerful together.
Our victory in the marriage equality campaign was the starting point for something even bigger. We discovered that together we are a force -- and a voice -- to be reckoned with; one that had the power to change laws, and change lives.
We need to say yes to equality for every aspect of LGBTIQ people’s lives. We need to make sure these hard won rights are never wound back.
Not only is Australia strong enough to handle a world where we are all equal, but that equality will make us even stronger.
We stand together because we believe we are all equal. And because, through standing, speaking and working together, one day we all will be.
Anna Brown is Co-Chair of the Equality Campaign and a Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre.