Albury councillor Ross Jackson has made an impassioned plea to end the ban on same-sex marriage.
He made the emotional address with the support of his sister, basketball superstar Lauren Jackson, who was one of 200 people at QEII Square for Saturday’s Equal Love rally.
Also there throwing their support behind the cause were fellow councillors Darren Cameron and mayor Kevin Mack, both of whom signed a petition to legalise same-sex marriage.
Cr Jackson called on everyone at the rally to “demand” an end to discrimination, in what he labelled “one of his most important speeches”.
“I believe there is no room in society for discrimination, oppression or inequality,” he said.
“I stand here today in the hope that local, state and federal governments will finally recognise the rights of all Australians.”
Cr Jackson apologised for appearing nervous, saying it was the first time he’d spoken in front of his entire family — his parents and pregnant partner were also there.
“I feel obligated to take this stance on same-sex marriage and equality because, like all of you, I have people very close to me who have been discriminated against for these very reasons,” he told the rally.
Speaking to The Border Mail afterwards, Lauren Jackson said she felt proud hearing her brother speak on an issue “very special and very dear” to her.
“It’s great to hear a young politician express his views and support social change,” she said.
“As an athlete, I’ve always been a proud supporter of LGTBI issues and equal marriage and I’ll continue to be a fighter for it.”
Cr Mack said, although he respected all views, he was also there to support Cr Jackson and the “critical issue” of same-sex marriage.
“Marriage equality is all about fairness, so our ratepayers and our people in our community expect nothing less,” he said.
Border gay and lesbian support service Hume Phoenix’s convenor Toni Johnson said the leaders’ backing was a “massive step forward”.
“It gives kids the courage to come out and speak for their rights,” she said.
Wodonga 16-year-old Tyler Beck was one such young person brave enough to tell his story, starting from the constant sick feeling he carried growing up hiding his secret.
“I was so nervous and felt I couldn’t be myself ... it was hard,” he told the crowd.
Tyler, who came out mid-last year, said people in the future shouldn’t have to go through what he did.
“I have a dream that people won’t have to come out,” he said.
“People are sending the wrong message to young people. Same-sex marriage is no different to straight marriage.”
Almost 200 people had signed the petition so far, which will be given to Member for Farrer Sussan Ley and possibly Member for Indi Cathy McGowan at the end of the week.
Ms Ley told the audience of ABC’s Q&A last week that Farrer wasn’t ready for same-sex marriage, while Ms McGowan supports the change.