The strategy of building up both our community’s confidence over several years and of encouraging people to personally meet with their local Member of Parliament paid off. On October 30, the day the debate started in the Upper House (Legislative Council) we held the “Prams and Grans” Rally, the first public rally of the nearly five-year campaign.
After politely listening to all the speakers as the rain started to come down, about 40 of the 100 or so rally goers staggered up the steps of parliament house. After waiting a long time as we snaked our way thought the security area where nappy bags were scanned and prams given a cursory search, we made it into the vestibule (reception area), all ready to get our visitor stickers and go in to the public gallery to listen to the debate.
Walking through the vestibule was the Speaker of the Upper House, Robert Smith. You can read below what impression we had on him, in his speech on November 13, 2008. This was only the second occasion in his time as President he had risen to address the house:
“I want to make mention of one of the things that, I have to be honest, changed my mind on this whole debate. On the day the lesbian lobbyists came into the Parliament with their children, I ran into them in the vestibule and took the opportunity to introduce myself and welcome them to the Parliament. I said a stupid thing to them: ‘Go and enjoy the debate’. How could anyone enjoy this debate? I thought, ‘You fool!’, but unfortunately I could not take back the statement. The impact it had on me — not confronting, but meeting these women and their children face to face — was profound. It drove home to me the fact that we are dealing with real people and real children, here and now. They exist. Are they treated fairly and equally in society through birth certificate registration et cetera? The answer is no. Should they be? My view is yes, they should. To those women who took the opportunity to come here, I have to say you have at least one convert.”
Just the day before many of us in the public gallery had openly wept as we listened to Bruce Atkinson’s speech (Hansard, November 12, 2008). Bruce Atkinson is Liberal party member and was the only Liberal to vote in favour of the legislation when it went to the second reading vote on December 4 2008. Having been visited by a member of the campaign team and her mother, Bruce mentioned many of the arguments our member had put forward and agreed with them too! His commitment to vote in favour was a huge turning point.