A Message From The Frontline Of The Fight For Marriage Equality


As odorous as it is, the postal plebiscite on marriage equality still smells like progress, writes long-time same-sex marriage campaigner Brian Lau.

Australia’s 45th Parliament has given it a roadmap to marriage equality. Having campaigned for marriage equality for over a decade, I have seen the twisting highs and lows. My heart has jumped more hurdles of hope and despair than I can remember, having to piece together factional party politics, union interests, business group pressure, religious groups, et al, to ultimately understand the narrative that so far finishes at ‘not now, but soon’.

For me, this experience has reinforced the idea that as member of a minority, you do not come to politics, but are born into it.

Brian Lau, pictured campaigning in 2008.
Brian Lau, pictured campaigning in 2008.

Countless inches of print and online op-ed columns have been dedicated to the merits on either side of this issue. You, the reader, will be aware of this by now, and so I will instead focus on giving you the lived experience of my 10 years on the marriage equality frontline.

The proposed plebiscite, with the contingent postal-vote, is nothing more than a mud map, dirt smeared and blurry, from my Prime Minister’s Faustian pacts and wanting leadership.

Disappointingly though, I resigned myself to see it as a step forward, because at its conclusion, we will finally put to rest the Turnbull Government’s obsession with needing to test out what others think about my right to marry the person I love.

My hope is that once this is done, we will finally respond to the real issue at hand, which is this: should two people who love each other, be given the right to marry in this country.

Brian Lau, pictured campaigning in 2011.
Brian Lau, pictured campaigning in 2011.

Numerous polls asking this question show more Australians than not are ready to follow in the footsteps of all the other western democracies to allow same-sex marriage. From where I see it, we are ready and we are willing.

Instead, the Turnbull Government’s actions demonstrate their beliefs that it’s the Australian voters’ right to have a say over their fellow Australians’ lives. That the gay and lesbian community should be opened up to a public dissection of our lives, our loved-ones, and our hopes and aspirations.

It’s offensive to me that this Government believes Australians would find this an acceptable way to treat each other. While I won’t pre-empt how respectful the coming marriage equality conversation will be, I see it as counter to Australia’s values that you don’t judge a mate for what brings them happiness, so long as it doesn’t hurt another.

The added insult to the injury is that the Turnbull Government never sought the gay and lesbian community’s views on whether we wanted to be put under the microscope in this way.

I accept, however, that these considerations are not the main game. The Turnbull Government has laid out its plan to compel Australia to decide this matter. I have made peace with that, and offer you, the reader, this advice between now and November.

Please register or update your voting details on the electoral roll. Don’t miss out on your right to change the course of this country’s destiny.

Get informed on this issue. Wherever you approach this topic from, remember you are ultimately responsible for the happiness of your fellow Australians when you vote. Please respect that.

Brian Lau, pictured campaigning in 2016.
Brian Lau, pictured campaigning in 2016.

Be considered and respectful in how you debate the merits of marriage equality. Always remember that there is a ‘someone, their family, and their feelings’ at the end of each argument.

To those Australians who feel overwhelmed by this conversation, please reach out if you need help. Switchboard and Q-Life are wonderful support resources.

Get involved. Please start having conversations with your friends, family and community about why this issue matters, and how they can express their view through their votes.

To the gay and lesbian community, this is not the end. No matter what happens in November, we will continue the fight.


Brian Lau is a community advocate of LGBTIQ rights, a gay-identified Asian Australian and a 10-year campaigner for marriage equality.