One Wedding, Fives Wins and a Plebiscite
The honeymoon is over.
In the glittery aftermath of the unlawful wedding of three LGBTQIA couples on campus at the ‘USyd Rainbow Wedding’, the honeymoon period has settled and we’re now sober, holding hands, faced with the deep existential crisis. What do we do now? How do you even top a wedding stunt? What if the university doesn’t sign on to marriage equality? What is the deal with the plebiscite?
The Wedding, part of a greater campaign, has hit success after success at the University of Sydney until now. In its establishment, it has unified the fractured LGBTQIA communities on campus under one active political umbrella. In its progression, it has collaborated with university staff, University of Sydney Union clubs, student representatives, and management, yet also run a student-driven, pro-union, protest-lead movement on campus.
What we have won this year.
What's next in 2016?
With the 2016 activist year slowing due to student elections, the campaign will likely focus on behind the scenes work.
However it’ll be important for us to maintain a presence on campus, and it’ll likely be done through important anniversaries and dates such as Wear it Purple (August 26th), Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20th), and World AIDS Day (December 1st).
Lastly, the long term goal is to roll this campaign out to all campuses. The policy itself was designed to become a checklist to see what each university is like on LGBTQIA inclusion. The campaigns would funnel information in a website that includes each university’s progress on the campaign, which would be a central point for any students who wish to enrol to study on any specific campus.
Marriage equality: the odd one out
Whilst the University of Sydney has performed well on the first five demands of the Rainbow Campus campaign, it has also declared it will not sign on to a marriage equality pledge, thus it will fail to completely implement the Rainbow Campus policy.
As a younger campaign, we must understand the University of Sydney’s refusal in a bigger picture. It has withstood the marriage equality campaign from multiple angles including from heavyweights like Australian Marriage Equality. This is long standing, and stagnant issue on campus due to Michael Spence’s vice grip on the university.
The University’s response has been fearful of this point of the campaign. In our first meeting with management, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Registrar) Tyrone Carlin made it clear to us on behalf of the Vice Chancellor Michael Spence that the University would not support marriage equality now, or anytime in the near future.
“The University of Sydney is an equal opportunity employer and educator. In 2015 the University launched the Ally Network to support the inclusion of LGBTIQ members of our community, and show our commitment to creating a stronger and more inclusive environment."
Whilst the university won’t meet the Rainbow Campus’ demands for marriage equality, the Ally Network is leading an internal charge on the debate by writing a position paper outlining their views on the debate in preparation for the plebiscite.
Mark Smith, the Ally Network chair didn't hold back when speaking on the plebiscite. “We don’t need to spend millions of dollars to reverse a decision the Liberal Government made in parliament in 2004. The plebiscite is a travesty.”
Many have spoken against the plebiscite, notably Opposition Leader Bill Shorten who said it “could act as a lightning rod for the very worst of the prejudice so many LGBTI Australians endure.”
Many have also noted the plebiscites large costings, with independent modelling the “total economic cost” looking to cost the Australian economy up to $525 million. This contextualises the opposition of Labor, Greens, and the Nick Xenophon Team who would hold a senate majority against the implementation of the plebiscite, instead supporting a free vote in parliament.
Regardless if you’re pro-plebiscite or not, we’ll have to prepare for a fight to protect those most vulnerable such as those who are questioning their identity, our young community members, and those minorities who face highest rates of suicide, harassment and public attacks such as the trans feminine community.
Our university could become a training ground for young changemakers that get the win for a plebiscite, eventually moving through the rest of Australian politics to uphold LGBTQIA rights, but only if we hold the ladder down to the next generation. If you think you’ve got the idea to crack the university’s ideas of marriage, or have other LGBTQIA rights you want to fight for, the Rainbow Campus campaign has got you covered.