Flying the Rainbow Flag

Written by Rachel Quilligan

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The rousing chants and war cries demanding equality and an end to homophobia echoed through the streets of Brisbane’s CBD as over 2000 supporters for marriage equality rallied in Queens Park.

“It was actually the biggest demonstration for gay rights that we’ve seen in Brisbane,” says Jess Payne, spokesperson for Equal Love Brisbane, the group that organised the event. “People feel their rights are under attack, so they took to the streets in their thousands to voice their opinion about it.”

The community protest has been growing since the LNP came into office. Earlier this year, almost 2000 protestors rallied to protest the proposed changes to civil unions and the defunding of the Queensland Association for Healthy Communities, the primary body for LGBT health and wellbeing in Queensland.

“We organised a rally that almost 2000 people attended with only a week’s notice. People know their rights are being violated and they want to take a stand against it,” says Payne.

Despite the protests, the new LNP government proceeded to introduce what is being touted as the most significant rollback of gay rights in the Western world.

“They have a really backwards social agenda,” says Payne. “It started with the LGBTI community but as we’ve seen it’s spread to attacks on the unions, on women’s services. They’re reducing the support networks for these groups, like Healthy Communities, and then reducing the rights of these groups.

“It’s disgusting that they attacked the LGBTI community first, and I think it shows there are a lot of homophobes in the LNP party today.”

Amnesty International NSW branch president Senthorun Raj says the changes are an attack on human rights.

“In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in Article Two, it is clear that everyone is entitled to equal rights, free from discrimination based on sexuality or relationship status, so Amnesty definitely views this form of discrimination as a human rights issue.”

Despite this, gay rights seem to be sliding backward instead of forward. Considering the LNP party’s strong win at the state election, including a campaign promise to repeal civil union laws, the question must be raised whether Queenslanders really are in support of marriage equality.

“Well actually, there has been lots of public engagement,” says Raj. “We’ve seen a lot of rallies, there’s also been a lot of media interest, and letters being sent to politicians as well as submissions to parliamentary reviews. The push is really coming from the community on this issue and we’re in fact seeing an increase on public activism on this topic.”

“There are new organisations that have started; we’ve held a whole series of events discussing and protesting the changes,” says Payne. “People are pretty pissed off.”

With polls showing over 60 per cent of Australians are in support of marriage equality, and over 80 per cent consider it inevitable, it seems that the politicians aren’t representing the majority’s views on the matter. Public activism and community support are growing and will continue to do so until the system responds to the cries for an end to homophobia.

“There’s another rally in November,” adds Payne. “The idea is to keep the pressure on, keep campaigning. The LNP is becoming very unpopular, as we’ve seen with the unions, and we need to keep pushing them back on these issues.”

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