‘I’ve been fighting for Marriage Equality since my youngest son married three years ago. It was a happy occasion, but tinged with sadness because it struck me that my oldest son would never have this opportunity’, says Geelong for Marriage Equality’s (GME) Sharyn Faulkner. ‘I initially approached Rodney Croome of Australian Marriage Equality, in 2014. He suggested I start a local campaign for Corangamite as they were about to embark on an electorate-by-electorate journey to try to convince MPs to support Marriage Equality.
Photo: Sharyn with her two sons.
‘And so the groundbreaking Geelong for Marriage Equality (GME) was formed. http://www.facebook.com/GeelongForMarriageEquality Our group met local Federal MP, Sarah Henderson, who challenged us to demonstrate that the electorate supported Marriage Equality.
‘So we formed a committee and set about gathering that evidence. City of Greater Geelong (COGG) and Surf Coast came on board, moving motions to support Marriage Equality and writing to Sarah Henderson and The Human Rights Commission. This led to Cr Jan Farrell of COGG spearheading the campaign for Local Government to get on board Australia-wide.
‘Through our letters we managed to get the Geelong Cats to show their support on their website. Gillon McLaughlin, CEO of the AFL, responded pledging his full support. The AFL is supporting Marriage Equality, Antidiscrimination and Diversity by holding Pride Games [http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-09/afl-launches-first-pride-game-between-sydney-swans-and-st-kilda/7703642], gathering worldwide publicity in the process. GME were also the first to hold the Australian premiere of the film ‘The Case Against 8’ which was opened by then Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson.
‘We sent over 2,000 postcards to Sarah Henderson’s office and June 2015 she publicly came out in support of Marriage Equality and argued very strongly for Marriage Equality and a Free Vote.
‘The Government then decided to hold a plebiscite on whether our loved ones in the LGBTI Community should be allowed to marry. I was asked to go to Canberra by PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and Just.Equal to lobby MP’s to stop the plebiscite. This led to an appearance on Four Corners – they followed us around Parliament House when they did a feature on Marriage Equality.
‘Now that the plebiscite has been blocked in the Senate we are fighting for the correct wording in the Bill put forward by George Brandis (Attorney General). If the Bill goes through in its current form exemptions will be used against LGBTI people when it comes to Marriage Equality. So maybe the Government will say ‘yes you can get married but with these conditions,’ namely religious exemptions, exemptions for civil celebrants, businesses, government employees (birth deaths and marriage registry) and groups because of their personal beliefs. IN OTHER WORDS LEGAL DISCRIMINATION. No other group in Australia has this level of discrimination directed at them why should the LGBTI Community? Just.Equal are taking the argument to Canberra and will tell them we want Marriage Equality but the LGBTI Community won’t be treated as second class citizens and when we say EQUAL we mean EQUAL!
I continue to fight for the human rights of LGBTI people, not only in Geelong but as far reaching as I can. I continue to lobby Sarah Henderson and other parliamentarians and I continue to fight for the right of my son to marry the person he loves and not be set apart from the rest of his family.
Foot Note: Sharyn Faulkner, originally from Sydney, lived in Colac for 18 years and was a former Councilor and Mayor of Colac. She is a Past President of The Rotary Club of Bayside Geelong and is a Paul Harris Fellow. She was an employment consultant for many years, working with underprivileged clients, the 2014 Karingal employee of the year and continues to work for the community of Geelong even though retired. She is currently volunteering with a group called Geelong Rainbow who act as an umbrella group for all LGBTI groups in Geelong, giving them a voice and coordinating events.