News from the Marriage Equality Rally (with bonus accessibility report)

hoydens marriage equality

Image: A group of smiling Hoydenizens standing on the steps of Sydney Town Hall, holding a sign that reads “Hoyden About Town for Marriage Equality”. In the background, we see people waving rainblow flags.

I’m happy to report that a group of Hoydenizens had a lovely time at the CAAH rally for marriage equality in Sydney today. It was great to see so many people passionately supporting equal rights for everyone — and also great to know that so many people who couldn’t be there were supporting equal marriage too.

Many passionate speakers from diverse backgrounds spoke at the event, and it concluded with an illegal wedding ceremony — although we Hoydenizens were at the back of the crowd and couldn’t see much, the atmosphere was very joyful (tempered, of course, by the sadness and anger that these unions would not be legally recognised due to the homophobic policies of our state and federal governments).

Inspired by the work of the wonderful women people at FWD/Forward, we were thinking a lot about accessibility today. We noticed that the organisers had arranged for an Auslan interpreter to be on stage at all times, and route of our march was relatively short and along level ground, so it would have been easily navigable by wheelchair, scooter, and pram users. The police kept the roads clear for us, and the pace of the march was relatively slow, and while marching, at least, the crowd was not too dense.

There were, however, a few problems, mostly relating to crowd management. Around the stage outside of Town Hall, the crowd was very thick, and it may have been difficult for a person with hearing difficulties to get close to the stage to see the Auslan interpreter — in fact, as the sound equipment being used did not project very well at all, it was quite difficult for anyone to hear what was going on unless they were towards the front (of course, we recongise that this was probably a funding issue, and not the fault of the organisers). The stage itself was set up very close to the street, which meant that the thickest part of the crowd covered the pathway most used by pedestrians — the organisers did ask us to keep that area clear, but unfortunately, people didn’t listen. Consequently, pedestrians who were not part of the rally were forced to go underground via Town Hall Station, and we witnessed one man who had a great deal of trouble using the stairs, which were the only means of access on that side of the road. Furthermore, when the crowd got moving for the march, it would have been difficult for wheelchair/scooter/pram users to find the dip linking the curb to the road amongst all the people.

The weather was very hot (over 30 degrees celcius), which does, of course, affect accessibility, but we weren’t sure if anything could be done about that. There were shady areas to sit and stand outside of Town Hall, and some (but not all) of the march route was shaded by buildings. We briefly considered the extent to which water stations along the marching route might increase accessibility, but that would also need to be considered in terms of environmental impact — at the very least, it would involve a lot of disposable cups. CAAH does, however, run rallies throughout the year (the last one was in August), so it might be possible for people who have heat-related accessibility problems to participate in rallies during the cooler months.

Not related to the organisation of the rally itself, but we also noticed that the toilets in Town Hall station were out of order. There was no clear signage directing people to the alternative portable toilets, above ground outside Town Hall, and those portable toilets would not have been accessible to many wheelchair and scooter users.

Please note that I’m not making these observations in order to point the finger at the organisers of this rally. Overall, I think that CAAH did a great job, and I think that the presence of the Auslan interpreter shows that they were definitely thinking about accessibility. The point of this report is to encourage us all to think about accessibility in a variety of contexts, including those that aren’t usually considered in terms of disability access.



Categories: Culture, culture wars, ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, Life, Politics, social justice, Sociology

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9 replies

  1. Glad to hear it all went well. I’m sorry I had to bail but bed was definitely where I needed to be!

  2. I had a completely brillopants time at the Melbourne rally. Couldn’t hear a thing, and couldn’t muster the courage to talk to some of the saucier ladies, but the shouty bits were very enjoyable, and there was an excellent drag show.
    The only downsides were a guy spraying deoderant at us from the footpath as we marched, and another guy on the train ranting about us in very derogatry terms. The driver called the police on him, and he ran off at the next station. I wish I was brave enough to confront him, but I just sat in my corner, like a cowardy custard.
    In terms of accessability it was incredibly inadequate – no interpreters and we walked up a hill, on tram tracks.

  3. Urgh I had to deal with some homophobic/racist/sexist/abelist rednecks on the bus on the way over to the Sydney rally. VERY VERY loud (louder than the presenters on stage at the rally). I waited til I was leaving the bus to turn around and tell them where to go. In my experience the bus drivers never do anything, which really annoys me ( I get that it’s not their fault, but I have seen bus drivers yell at passengers before for much less serious things).
    That aside, the rally was good, but a real pity we couldn’t hear all that much ( even standing closer to the stage, it was difficult). I get that the funding would’ve been tight, but more speakers, and a screen so more people could see the signer would’ve been good.

  4. Apart from a few construction workers taking the piss, but that seemed to be more generally about us marching for something/anything rather than about the specific issue we were marching for, I didn’t encounter any hostile reactions. It crossed my mind that ringing the cathedral bells might have been an attempt to drown out the speakers, but it didn’t last very long, and maybe they do that at the same time every Saturday – I don’t know.
    With respect to the slower walkers, I found that at one stage I thought about speeding up to catch up with the people chanting at the front, but then I thought that the slower walkers were isolated enough at the back already. A bit of thought from the organisers about spreading out some of their people leading the chants, so that there was some chant-leading going on in the middle and at the rear of the march as well, would be a useful thing to be more inclusive for slower walkers.

  5. Hi! I was very glad to meet you all!
    As we walked down Market St, I noticed three young boys (maybe Year 8 or so, she says, with her teacher’s eye) walking past and sort of giggling at us. One boy kept dashing in and pretending to march, then leaving the parade to laugh with his friends. I meandered close to him and offered my flag to him, and he fled back to the others. I followed him out and asked them in polite tones why it was so important to them not to be seen to be supporting equality, or words to that effect, and they ran. I am so passive-aggressive sometimes, but I do hope they learnt that they will be confronted if they try that sort of irritating crap. I also hope my students wouldn’t act like that; they certainly know not to use homophobic language around me, but some of them, I suspect, haven’t quite realised that homophobia is stupid and evil everywhere.

  6. Thanks for the report Beppie, Yay Hoydens! Hope you’re better now Mimbles.

  7. Yep, I’m ok now, but my oldest son seems to have it now, hopefully it’ll be over just as quickly for him.

  8. We were interviewed last week by a chap from SameSame, who included some pics of us and some sound from me in this video-slideshow from the rally and march:
    https://www.youtube.com/embed/KBIDQzSb3zo?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent

  9. I meant to link to this at the time, The Sydney Morning Herald had a brief report with an attendance estimate of 300. I’m not a good estimator of crowds but that seems about right for the rally but perhaps a little low for the marching portion.

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