Being Part Of History: Marriage Equality Rally

There’s something rather uplifting about being among a 30,000-strong crowd who are fighting for a scale-tipping yes vote for marriage equality. To be honest, I had to hold back tears of joy. I was there primarily as a journalist to get the story, so I couldn’t get lost in emotions. But I am gay, so it was hard not to.

Any major event feels better in a crowd. Watching your team play to win the grand final; running in the City2Surf; even watching Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display. But those events are for entertainment compared to fighting for the right to marry. What I attended on September 10 was a historical moment. It was a democratic fight for LGBTI Australians. It was a fight for lesbian daughters, gay uncles, transgender coworkers, bisexual housemates, intersex best friends. It was a fight for same sex couples with children. It was a fight for children and teenagers who are right now questioning their sexuality or gender. But most of all it was a fight for equal rights.

But as well as being there for all those Australians, I was getting the story. And I was at the centre of it all. Getting personal anecdotes from attendees, like mother-of-two Mary Delves who asked the question: “Why is it my gay daughter doesn’t have the right to marry, yet my straight son has?” And listening to speeches given by famous queer activists and high-profile politicians.

Labor MP Tanya Plibersek giving a heartfelt speech to the crowd

Labor MP Tanya Plibersek giving a heartfelt speech to the crowd. Image: Chris Kelly

There was a moment where I was standing under the steps where Labor MP Tanya Plibersek was giving a heartfelt speech and I turned around to see everyone in the crowd looking up at her. That moment was the hardest to hold back tears. I could only wonder how powerful that image would be to many Australians. To the questioning children and teenagers who are wondering if they have any place in this world. To the parents of LGBTI children who worry about the future of their offspring. An image like that had the power to change.

Rally attendees watch Tanya Plibersek give her speech

Rally attendees watch Tanya Plibersek give her speech. Image: Chris Kelly

Even the press conference was overwhelming. Before the crowd began to overflow at Sydney Town Hall, news crews and cameras were gathered on the ground floor. Tanya Plibersek and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten strolled past me. I was right there watching history being made.

Bill Shorten took to the podium where microphones were waiting and told Australia that even if the vote came back underwhelming, he’d still legislate marriage equality. That was another tear-jerker moment.

Bill Shorten speaking at the press conference next to Sydney's Town Hall

Bill Shorten speaking at the press conference next to Sydney’s Town Hall. Image: Chris Kelly

The most powerful thing about this rally though, was how flawless it went, even considering the sheer size of it. There were no counter protests, there were no thrown punches, there were no known arrests, there was no rain. It was just a lively, enormous crowd.

An incredible aerial shot was shared across social media to showcase the enormity of the crowd.

The crowd was so large, in fact, it took over half an hour to empty Sydney Town Hall for the march to Customs House.

30,000 people march along Elizabeth St toward Customs House at Circular Quay

30,000 people march along Elizabeth St toward Customs House at Circular Quay. Image: Chris Kelly

Speaking of the march, I remember walking past the corner of Market and Elizabeth St and a mother with her two girls happened upon the spectacle. The kids were eager to go. I was almost anticipating the mother saying no, and tugging them away back to Pitt St Mall. But she didn’t. She saw their eagerness and joyfully asked them: “Do you want to join the march?” The gleam on the kids’ faces was amazing. I wanted to hi-five the mother right there and then!

Pride flag flown at Customs House. Image: Chris Kelly

Pride flag flown at Customs House.

We all made it to Customs House, and the crowd was alive with passion. Music resonated through the crowd, even captivating onlookers who were passing by. It was a truly exciting scene to be a part of. We all made it in one piece. We were welcomed by the crowd, while we welcomed them. It wasn’t a ‘them and us’ moment, it was all of us together as one.

Because in the end, that’s what this march represents. We are more than just labels. We are part of the human race. We transcend ethnicity, we transcend gender, we transcend disabilities, we transcend religion, we transcend the socio-economic status. We are rich, poor, black, white, men, women, children. And we want you to vote yes. Not just for them, but for those around you. Vote yes for a mother’s gay son. Do it for a daughter’s lesbian parents. Do it for me if you know me that well.

And don’t forget to Vote Yes for yourself, because in 30 years time you will have the chance to say: “I was on the right side of history.”