A moment to savour

It was the first or second protest we had in Melbourne, against John Howard's homophobic ban on same sex marriage.

There were maybe three or four dozen of us, standing near the statues at the State Library in a thin Melbourne drizzle.

“This campaign is going nowhere”, I remember thinking.

I remember, a year or two later, the knot of nervous tension in my gut before I raised the issue at a CFMEU branch meeting – and being shocked and a bit overwhelmed when we got unanimous endorsement, and when one of the workers there came out as gay – first to me, then to his workmates shortly after, the first time he'd told anyone in the industry.

I remember when, through the sheer hard work and persistence of Equal Love activists, the street protests caught on among high school students rebelling against the foul homophobia they were subjected to, and from there slowly broke into the mainstream.

I remember the Q&A candidates' forum in the 2010 election, with Abbott pretending to be the “battler's” friend, when a Vietnam War veteran from Western Sydney got and asked when Abbott was going to give this man's gay son the dignity he deserved, by allowing him to marry. “Jesus Christ”, I remember thinking, “we're finally getting somewhere”.

I remember when finally the Labor Party was shaken in its adherence to the sex marriage ban, as the (then) largest rally ever for gay and lesbian rights in Australia's history marched through the streets of Sydney to rally outside the ALP conference in 2011.

I'll always remember the campaign of these last two months. The comrades organising “cupcakes for equality” at their workplaces, small actions that break down walls of silence and homophobia. The record-breaking crowds at the rallies. The rainbow union flag flying off a construction crane in Melbourne.

And I'll always remember today. Fighting my way through a dense crowd all around the State Library, to stand on the same spot where just a few dozen of us gathered, shivering, over a decade ago. This time celebrating a historic win over bigotry, over homophobia, over some of the most noxious political forces in this country. The crowd crying and laughing and hugging and crying again, savouring the moment of victory.

We have a world to win. Victories like this remind that we can.