It’s far sunnier than I expected on a Perth winter weekend morning as I enter Stirling Gardens formerly the Supreme Court Gardens. It’s an innocent bit of greenery in the middle of the city.
On Saturday, 11 August 2012, it got taken over.
And I was there to protest. And to photograph.
Equal Love – it nearly sounds like something left over from the ’70s but this isn’t that old but neither is it exactly new. Across the world several countries have amended laws to allow people with alternative gender identities and sexual orientations, all sorts of civil rights including the right to marry.
Eight years ago, the Federal government in Australia passed laws that prevented the recognition of marriage between couples of the same sex or identifying as belonging to the same sex. In the views of the GLBT/queer community and the words of Amber Maxwell from Equal Love WA, this makes them “second class citizens” – people denied the right to have the wedding they may have dreamed of their entire lives simply because they love someone of their own gender.
But love isn’t simple. It isn’t just between two people of differing genders.
Those who gathered at Stirling Gardens on Saturday were not just members of the GLBT/queer community. They were not just people who identified as homosexual, bisexual, asexual, transgender or intersex. There were heterosexuals too, there to support their friends and family members. There were kids running around. There were those who were there for the principle – people who want everyone to have an equal place to start from – socialists (both the Socialist Alliance and the Socialist Alternative), communists and advocacy organisations (Equal Love, Rainbow Labor, Anonymous AND geekily enough The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – men who dress as nuns). The age range was from a few months old in lavishly festooned pram and multi-coloured fairy tutu (immediately nicknamed the “gayby” in much delight of how awesome it was by some) to the over 60s.
And then there were people like me, who were there for friends, there because we felt the principle of equality mattered and because one day when we have kids, we want them to have the ability to choose to get married, irrespective of who they fall in love with.
After a few rousing speeches by Sam Ca vallaro (Curtin University’s Queer Officer), Amber Maxwell (Equal Love WA), Bec Leighton (National Union of Students) and even a politician, Lynn Maclaren from The Greens, the crowd of 680+ formed en masse, gathered their signs and placards and boards and marched out onto the streets of Perth.
Perth locals were more intrigued and amused than horrified by the protest march and the shouts of “1, 2, 3, 4, Stop the homophobic law! 5, 6, 7, 8, How do you know your kids are straight?” and “What do we want? Equal rights! When do we want it? Now!”
Several amateur photographers were in attendance since most of the mainstream media appeared to be fast asleep at the wheel. Photos started coming in online almost immediately afterwards. Locals were treated to anyone and everyone with a camera (including yours truly) racing down the side walk, jumping over benches and climbing on anything that could give us a sweeping view of the march. The main magazine for the community, Out In Perth, sent out BOTH its editor and a journalist to cover the march, swapping positions back and forth between the front and end of the march. Most of us were winded, having to carry equipment and sprint across streets and dodge cars.
We wanted to document that this had happened. That people had protested. That 62% of the Australian public wanted equal marriage laws passed in all states. That the Tasmanian State government has allowed same sex marriage (you could just see the calculations for airplane tickets happening on the faces of many in the crowd). That this was the 8th year of protesting against the ban and that it was ridiculous that it should be banned and that it should take so long to reverse it.
But what caught my eye were the quieter moments prior to the marching. Quite often everyone sees the protesters in mid-protest. No one sees how normal they are. How embedded they are in what people consider “proper” and “normal” family life. How their sexual orientation and gender identity are just one small part of who they are and how varied and wonderful as individuals they can be.
There were several people who kindly let me take photos of them, so thank you for letting me turn the camera lens onto you. Thank you also to those who were keen to have their kids involved but my journalism ethics prevent me from publishing their photos and potentially violating their privacy. If you’re the parents of the baby in the pram with the multi-coloured streamers, contact me for the photos.
For more of the photos I took in all their wonderfully large non-thumbnail detail, check out the album on the Facebook Page. For another photographer, Zebedee Parkes’ photos, check out his Flickr album.