Who dreamed that victory would taste this sweet? From the joy and elation of celebrating Australia's first same-sex weddings between Amy Laker and Lauren Price and Amy and Elise Macdonald, to the bittersweet relief of watching Cas Willow and Heather Richards make it to the altar in time, love won big this year.
But many small steps led to Australia's big leap, and other countries embraced marriage equality milestones of their own. Here, we look back at some of the moments that bought us joy and filled us with hope and love.
The Kiss That Embarrassed Australia.Image courtesy of AFL media
The Herald Sun’s Mark Robinson described it as ‘the kiss that travelled around Australia.” It was the moment AFLW superstar Erin Phillips kissed her wife, Tracy Gahan, before accepting the inaugural AFL Women's League's best and fairest award. The kiss went viral and unleashed a wave of criticism towards the government for refusing to allow a free vote in parliament to legislate marriage equality.
"It’s an embarrassment that we don’t have same-sex marriage and adds to the popular belief around the world that Australia is a backwater of convicts and hoodlums,” Robinson wrote in his column.
"The fact Erin and Tracy are legally married in America, but not here, is shameful,” said ACT Chief Minister & marriage equality campaigner, Andrew Barr. “Erin is like so many other Australians denied marriage equality – she can contribute to the heart of this nation, but this nation won't let her legally commit her heart to the one she loves.”
On Monday July 26, three months out from the German Federal election, Germany's anti-equality chancellor, Angela Merkel, bowed to social and political pressure and declared her support for a free parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage.
Social Democrat's leader Martin Schulz immediately jumped on the comments. A bill to grant same-sex couples full marriage and adoption rights was introduced to parliament and a vote was set for that Friday.
The vote passed 393 to 226, and marriage was re-defined as being “entered into for life by two people of different or the same sex." Despite voting no, Merkel said "I hope that the vote today shows not only the mutual respect for different opinions but that this also leads to more peace and social cohesion as well.”
Catholic Malta, which only legalised divorce six years ago, achieved marriage equality and gender neutrality by parliamentary vote in July, making it the 15th EU nation to achieve full marriage equality.
Progressive Labour Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, 43, said of the historic vote, "This shows that our democracy and society have reached a level of maturity and we can now say that we are all equal.”
Whilst the country still bans abortion, it legalised civil unions and same-sex adoption in 2014. The institution of marriage is now fully gender neutral. References to ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ have been replaced with the term ‘spouse’, the terms ‘mother’ and ‘father’ became ‘parents’ and lesbian couples having children via IVF or other medical interventions are referred to as ‘the person who gave birth’ and ‘the other parent.’
In September, Australian Football League Women's stars Moana Hope and Erin Phillips walked the Brownlow Medal red carpet with their same-sex partners, giving the Yes campaign for marriage equality some desperately needed positive publicity during the dark days of the postal survey.
Adelaide Crows co-captain Erin Phillips attended with her wife, Tracy Gahan, while Collingwood's Moana Hope blew up Twitter by bringing her girlfriend, model Isabella Carlstrom. The week before the Brownlow's, the AFL made a public gesture of support for the Yes campaign by changing the logo at AFL house in Melbourne to a Yes sign.
"We are a leader whether people like that or not. This is an issue that means a lot to many of our players, many of my employees and a lot of people in our community," AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan told AFL 360.
Right in the middle of the marriage equality postal survey, Macklemore faced a petition banning him from performing his marriage equality anthem, 'Same Love' at the NRL grand final and criticism from Tony Abbott for politicising sport. Macklemore responded to the media storm during an interview on an LA radio station, saying “So I’m getting a lot of tweets from angry old white dudes in Australia. Today I think there is a petition to ban me from playing." “I’m gonna go harder." 15 minutes into his set at ANZ stadium in Sydney, he launched into 'Same Love' with out and proud lesbian singer/songwriter, Mary Lambert. The crowd cheered, rainbow coloured smoke billowed from the stage and Macklemore ended the song by calling for ‘equality for all.'
After months of hateful ad campaigns and televised debates about the rights of LGBT people to marry and the effect our relationships will have on children, Australia overwhelmingly voted YES to marriage equality in the same-sex marriage postal survey.
The results were YES 61.6% and No 38.4%.
Dean Smith's marriage equality bill passed the lower house of parliament on December 7, and on December 9 same-sex marriage was legal. Overseas same-sex marriages were automatically recognised and same-sex couples were able to lodge their notices of intent to marry.
Mrs & Mrs MacDonald Image Courtesy Of Elise MacDonald Facebook
Although the first same-sex weddings were expected to be held on January 9 2018, several couples were granted waivers to the 30 day waiting period. So on Saturday December 16, Australia celebrated its first same-sex weddings with Amy laker and Lauren Price in Camden, NSW and Amy and Elise Macdonald in Melbourne.
Then, on Monday December 18, came the most touching wedding of all, as terminal cancer patient Cas Willow and her partner of 17 years, Heather Richards, married in a brave and beautiful ceremony at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne.
Cas and Heather made the decision to marry 15 years ago, and for Heather, finally being able to marry the love of her life will make the couple's last few weeks together "complete." Try watching this video without crying...
“Love wins. Love always wins.”
- Mitch Albom