Rallies across country as Yes campaign enters final stretch

With the marriage equality postal survey deadline approaching, thousands have rallied around the country in support of a Yes vote.

In Sydney, 15,000 people marched, while rallies in Canberra and Adelaide attracted 1,000 and 2,000 respectively. In Melbourne, thousands marched to a festival of bands and entertainment despite inclement weather. In Brisbane 1,000 defied the rain to rally.

The Sydney event dramatically dwarfed a No rally held on the same day, which attracted only a few hundred people, despite its organisers claiming to speak for the majority. Mortal fear of the political correctness brigade was cited as a factor supposedly keeping numbers down.

And the political correctness brigade was indeed an intimidating spectacle as it marched through Sydney’s streets: high school students with rainbows painted on their faces, parents pushing strollers and waving rainbow flags and people of all ages chanting “Love is love” in support of equality.

The size of the rallies was significant given the widespread expectation, confirmed by multiple polls, that the Yes vote will win convincingly. Complacency has certainly reduced the motivation of many to attend Yes events. But there is a positive side to this: the thousands who rallied did so not simply out of fear of losing the vote, but in recognition of the value of solidarity and the strength of political conviction in the face of a hostile government.

Indeed, contrary to the intentions of its proponents, the postal survey has primarily served to demonstrate to wide layers of young people and activists the value of being part of a united struggle, the potential that exists to win support from wider layers for civil rights and the impact it is possible to have on the powers that be.

That mass political rallies have defined this campaign, not just personally focused or apolitical campaigning efforts, is a positive legacy for the future. It can encourage the idea that resistance is not always futile, and that victory is possible when people stand together.

The focus of the rallies was overwhelmingly on making a push to ensure that Yes supporters post in their survey forms. But another important theme was that the postal survey will not be the end of the process.

The right wing opponents of equality have shown over the last 13 years that their belligerence knows no limits. Continuing to fight to ensure that a bill is put to parliament by the end of the year, that politicians vote in favour of it and that its content is not undermined by concessions to the right wing and religious bigots, will be essential.

This will mean keeping up the momentum of the Yes campaign – through more street demonstrations, political action and campaigning – until equality is not just popular but also the law.