As it was announced Australians had voted in favour of allowing same-sex couples to marry, Bega’s Wendy Hunter broke down with tears of joy.
“Knowing that Australia thinks gay and lesbian people are okay is what it’s about, and Australia has overwhelmingly said Yes,” she said.
“Our local community has been incredibly supportive throughout, which has meant a lot.”
She said the lead up to the result, with almost 62 per cent of respondents to the postal survey voting Yes, had left her feeling anxious and unable to sleep.
“I knew this would probably be the outcome, but still feel it’s not over now the Patterson bill has been put up,” Ms Hunter said in reference to Liberal MP James Paterson’s bill that would permit same-sex wedding, but allow service providers to discriminate against couples during their planning.
“The whole issue for me has opened my eyes to Indigenous people, and having your whole life judged by the majority,” she said.
“We’ve been judged our whole lives.”
Supporters of the Yes campaign gathered at Nook Tea and Espresso Bar in Bega, and at the Tathra Wharf to watch the announcement unfold.
“The result is pretty massive, and nice to get together and do this,” Ms Hunter said.
Wapengo’s Janna Cochrane said it is now time for the government to acknowledge the survey and legalise same-sex marriage.
“We’ve paid the money, lets go for it,” she said.
“I didn’t want the survey, but now it’s here lets do it.”
Coolagolite’s Rosie Watt said she is confident the government will make the move towards legislating for marriage equality.
“In the end I am optimistic that they will honour the people and be courageous for once, otherwise there will be a massive outcry followed by a complete lack of trust and faith in the government overall,” she said.
“I feel there will be a lot of pressure for them to deal with the issue and regain the trust of the people.
“I hope the future for Australia is a bright one, that boldly embraces marriage equality.”
Tathra’s Tas Fitzer also believes Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will be forced to move quickly to legislate the result.
“I think the problem he will have if he doesn’t immediately deal with it is that it will solidify the perception that he is not in control of his party, as we are all very aware of his views on the matter,” the 21-year-old administrator of the Bega Valley for Marriage Equality and South Coast Rainbow Community Facebook pages said.
“The return of a Yes vote has made it clear that the country wants decisive action on marriage equality, and I think that should Turnbull not deliver that, there will be political and popular ramifications.
He was at the Tathra Wharf for Wednesday morning’s announcement which saw 64.9 per cent of Eden-Monaro surveys contain a Yes response.
Bega Valley Shire Council voted in support of same-sex marriage in 2013.
Mr Fitzer said he had found the process leading up to the announcement of the survey result by the Australian Bureau of Statistics “pretty difficult”.
“It’s certainly not something that we wanted to have to go through in order to achieve this, especially when it was totally unnecessary, but now it’s done,” he said.
“There can be no more delaying allowed from those who have opposed marriage equality.
“Senator Dean Smith’s bill has broad support from marriage equality groups, and would be a very good bill to be introduced immediately to the Parliament, not the bill that has been proposed largely by those opposed to marriage equality and written by Senator Patterson.
“I don’t think Turnbull has any choice but to legislate immediately, they’ve said frequently that the Parliament will decide the nature of the bill, and the bill that seems to have wide parliamentary support, as well as support from those in the Yes camp is Senator Smith’s bill,” he said.