Albury shops in rainbow support of love in lead up to same-sex marriage postal survey

QUEEN'S SUPPORT: Britain has already backed same-sex marriage now the doll version of Queen Elizabeth at Betty Windsor and Sons Coffee Emporium has too, with owner Jarrod Lehman and Toni Johnson. Pictures: SIMON BAYLISS
QUEEN'S SUPPORT: Britain has already backed same-sex marriage now the doll version of Queen Elizabeth at Betty Windsor and Sons Coffee Emporium has too, with owner Jarrod Lehman and Toni Johnson. Pictures: SIMON BAYLISS

Shopfronts on both sides of the Border are being asked to brighten up with rainbows and the message of “vote yes” before the upcoming postal survey on same-sex marriage.

Toni Johnson from the Albury Marriage Equality group has already started her campaign, hoping businesses can be the key to encouraging people to vote.

She and other volunteers will visit shops in Albury and Wodonga asking them to show support in their windows with any kind of rainbow posters or decorations.

“Balloons, streamers, it doesn’t matter - I want it rainbow, lit up until the postal vote goes through,” Ms Johnson said.

“This is the perfect opportunity for everyone to step up and have their say.”

Even her 84-year-old mother had jumped on board the campaign, actively encouraging others in her generation to vote.

“I’m walking round the streets, putting posters up and talking to the businesses and make them have conversations with their family, friends, anyone that comes in and says ‘what’s this all about?’,” she said.

“It’s a country town, but the majority are quite happy with supporting equality … There’s only a few (people vocally against same-sex marriage), you always get your diehards, but that’s their right to be like that.”

The High Court was considering two separate legal challenges to the postal survey and will decide whether it is valid following hearings on September 5 and 6.

But until then, LGBTQIA+ groups are campaigning in preparation for survey forms to be sent out to homes from September 12.

Ms Johnson said it was important to look out for the mental health of people who were angry with a decision to hold the survey at all and worried about a “backlash of hate”.

“There’s a lot of heartache still locally,” she said.

“A lot of people are very sad at the moment and confused I think – we’ve had a lot of calls and people just want to talk.

“The mental health part of it is very important to acknowledge.”

An “equality walk” will be held in Albury on August 25, involving a group marching and waving rainbow flags beginning at the walk bridge end of Dean Street at 5pm and a speech from Albury Cr Amanda Cohn.

Indi MP Cathy McGowan said the feedback to the postal vote was still an overwhelming annoyance with the fact the same-sex marriage debate was not being decided in Parliament.

But she said it was too late to argue and confirmed that in the event of a “yes” decision in the survey, she would vote in Parliament according to Indi’s result, not her own views – which were in favour of marriage equality.

“As the member for Indi I need a very strong turnout and I’m hoping for a really clear decision from my community so that when I go back to Parliament, I can vote according to what my community want me to do,” Ms McGowan said.

“We really want people to have their say.”

ADVOCATES: Toni Johnson, pictured with fellow Hume Phoenix member Jarrod Lehman, has stepped down from the group after nine years to focus on marriage equality.

ADVOCATES: Toni Johnson, pictured with fellow Hume Phoenix member Jarrod Lehman, has stepped down from the group after nine years to focus on marriage equality.

Sticking up for the rights of family to get married

The argument over marriage equality is also deeply personal to family and friends of the LGBTQIA+ community who only want to see kindness directed at their loved ones.

Corowa’s Adam Richardson is standing by his gay brother, who has been with his partner for seven years, and asked people to put aside the many “outrageous claims” from both sides of the debate.

“They have supported each other through the good times and the bad,” he said.

“My brother’s partner was at his side the day my dad passed, my daughters call them both uncle and we’ve spent countless hours together.”

Mr Richardson admitted he felt shame because he was no longer married, after making his vows during a wedding in a church.

He is still religious and wanted his brother’s personal life to be recognised by others.

“I’m not trying to say their love for each other is any better or worse than anyone else’s,” Mr Richardson said. 

“But for these two, to me, it’s clear they love each other and I want for the same thing any other person wants, and that’s to marry the person they love in their own way, in their home, in their lives.

“I’m not just sticking up for my brother, but also the many, many other family members out there who see their loves ones denied something we have a right to. 

“Their love is no different to anyone else.”