Australia’s ‘Rainbow Territory’ – Marriage Equality in Canberra

Ryan Auberson-Walsh
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Canberra was once the nation’s (perhaps more so Sydney and Melbourne’s) democratic solution to the squabble over the contender most suitable for Australia’s capital city.

Often forgotten by tourists upon the world stage, the capital is back in the political limelight today after nabbing first place in Australia’s race to marriage equality. Dubbed the ‘rainbow territory’ on social media and spawning a range of colourful tweets and posts, the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) Legislative Assembly today voted in favour of a same-sex marriage law, eight votes to seven.

Concluding a discussion that lasted a number of hours, the lead up to the vote has been the talk of marriage equality activists Australia-wide, as it’s become the first individual jurisdiction on Australian soil, which will now provide full equal rights to LGBTI Canberrans.

Openly gay Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr choked back tears when he discussed the struggles that gay and lesbian people, their families, and supporters all face. He said the law would transform the lives of many, moulding the small city into one “of love”.

“It marks an important step in our journey to become the most LGBTI city in Australia,” Mr Barr said.

“Whether it’s the rainbow territory, the city of love, it’s an important journey for us. I have no doubt that this reform will transform many lives.”

Supported by eight Labor MLAs (Members of the Legislative Authority) and Green MLA Shane Rattenbury, the Liberal party members reflected their federal leader, PM Tony Abbott, declaring the issue a federal matter.

Under the law, same-sex couples from across the country will be able to wed by the end of the year, but a push by Mr Abbott to take the bill’s positive outcome to the High Court has been confirmed.

The ACT’s Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said that they weren’t deterred if it became a High Court Challenge.

“That should not deter us, it doesn’t rattle us and it doesn’t change our path,” she said.

“It’s a proud day for the government and I know for many across our community.

“We on this side of the chamber are prepared to challenge outdated legal notions and meet our responsibilities to the people we represent, to make sure that each and every one of you is treated with recognition, equality and fairness before the law.”

Liberal leader Jeremy Hanson said it was an issue that shouldn’t be debated by the ACT legislature.

“We do not see the ACT Assembly as a vehicle to drive national agendas or social agendas, whereas the Labor Party and the Greens do. We are Labor’s smallest parliament in a small jurisdiction and we do not think a majority of one person in the ACT should change the definition of marriage for a country of over 23 million people,” he said.

Now, Australians must brace themselves for another swipe of Abbott’s hand, pushing them backwards towards a 1950s era of chauvinistic debauchery. All we can do is rally together in our numbers and stand up to a man who believes marriage is “between a man and a woman”, and who has consistently refused to allow his party a conscience vote on the issue.

If we’re ever to reach marriage equality as a nation, let us just hope that Abbott’s High Court challenge backfires and he becomes the laughing stock of the free world. Maybe then we might, ironically, have a chance at gaining rights if we’re to fight individually as states and territories, as opposed to in unison at the highest level of Australian government.

ACT law-proponents, you are the wonderful wizards of Oz.

About Ryan Auberson-Walsh

Ryan Auberson-Walsh is a sassy Sydneysider who enjoys cocktails and writing from opinion. A student at the University of Technology, Sydney, he was the 2013 editor-in-chief of annual Querelle, and has previously interned at and Australian Traveller. His work has also been published in Cream and Vertigo. @ryanaubiee on Twitter & Instagram.