On 24 June 1978 at 10 pm 500 people gathered on Oxford Street NSW calling for an end to discrimination against homosexuals in employment and housing, an end to police harassment and the repeal of all anti-homosexual laws. Although the organisers had obtained permission, this was revoked, and the march was broken up by police – 53 of the marchers arrested.
Sydney Morning Herald published the names of those arrested in full, leading to many people being outed to their friends and places of employment, and many of those arrested lost their jobs: least we forget, homosexuality was a crime in New South Wales until 1984.
It would be comforting to view the no conscience vote on marriage equality “news” only thru the narrow and clouded lens of history where – from the safe distance of time – we could abstractly admire the courageous activism displayed by the 1978 protesters, who helped raise the stakes and push the equality issue forward into daylight.
Except that the past has been refused passage. Permission has been revoked. Australia peaks now thru the wrong end of the telescope; and what seems distant and tiny is, in fact, gaining upon us; is waiting ahead on our road that is still dark and largely uncharted.
What happened to marriage equality today is what will always happen when everyday Australians elect leaders who can’t and/or won’t recognise themselves in others. Until they can, black and white photographs from 1978 giving way to endless and vividly moving colour reels from the 2015 marriage equality rallies, animating all manner of love, is what will pass for progress.