The sky didn’t fall in then and it won’t now

May 9th, 2017 by Avant Card

Monday 1 May 2017 marked twenty years since Tasmania became the last state in Australia to decriminalize homosexuality. The anniversary has been commemorated with a national Avant Card campaign by the Tasmanian Gay & Lesbian Rights Group (TGLRG), asking Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to allow Federal Liberals a free vote on marriage equality. The card features an illustration by Tasmanian cartoonist Christopher Downes, with the words “The sky didn’t fall in then and it won’t now.”

The card will be distributed to Avant Card displays across Australia later this month, and marriage equality supporters are encouraged to take a photo holding the card up against the sky, and post it on social media with the hashtag #TheSkyWontFallMalcolm, before mailing the card to the Prime Minister.

We spoke to one of the campaign’s creators, Richard Hale, about the TGLRG, how the campaign was developed and what is hoped it will achieve. 

“TGLRG is a grassroots community group that formed in 1988. We led the long but ultimately successful nine-year campaign for gay law reform in Tasmania that included the arrest of 130 people at Hobart’s Salamanca Market, a ruling by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the passage of federal sexual privacy legislation, and a High Court challenge to the state’s anti-gay laws. Gay law reform was achieved on 1 May 1997. TGLRG has also campaigned successfully for anti-discrimination legislation (1999); relationship recognition (2003); adoption, surrogacy and parenting rights (2012-13); and the expungement of historic criminal records for consensual homosexual sexual activity (2017). We’re still campaigning for marriage equality, and still have a stall at Salamanca Market every Saturday.”

The campaign – ‘The sky didn’t fall then and it won’t now’ – was developed collaboratively. “TGLRG spokesperson and LGBTIQ rights activist Rodney Croome and I met for coffee recently to plan how to celebrate the 20th anniversary of gay law reform in Tasmania. He’s also been trying to think of ways to reactivate the marriage equality campaign which has stalled federally because of some politicians’ fears of a conservative backlash if they follow their conscience and vote for marriage equality, which is what 70% of Australians want them to do. We wanted to find a way to link celebrating the anniversary with taking the next step towards marriage equality and came up with the slogan “The sky didn’t fall in then and it won’t now”. Ivan Hinton-Teoh, campaigner for national LGBTIQ advocacy group just.equal advised us re the social media potential of the campaign and thought of the hashtag #TheSkyWontFallMalcolm.”

“Rodney knew Christopher [Downes] through the media and through his outstanding political cartoons. Christopher also has a gay brother who he loves dearly and who he wants the government to treat equally. He sketched up two ideas. One was of Chicken Little, a storybook character who believes the sky is falling when an acorn drops on his head. We decided to go with Christopher’s image of lesbian brides striding across a rainbow because it conveys a feeling of progressing towards a positive goal. A symbolically homophobic chicken wasn’t quite as celebratory!”

On Wednesday 17 May, 20,000 postcards will be distributed across metro Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart, Darwin and Canberra, as well as our Sydney and Melbourne regional hotspots. They will be displayed in cafes and bars, arts and culture venues and universities, targeting the professional, tourism, student/youth, family and gay markets.

TGLRG’s small group of volunteers is completely reliant on donations and fundraising, so it’s problematic for us to mount a national campaign alone. I’ve seen Avant Card postcards around for years, and when I checked out your website I realised there was the potential there for us to work together on a sponsored national campaign. It seemed like the perfect way to get the marriage equality message out there to tens of thousands of everyday Australians where they live. It’s fun, easy, political activism, for the price of a postage stamp.”

Regarding the outcome from the campaign, Richard Hale is pragmatic. “While I’d love our Prime Minister to take decisive action on marriage equality and have a Liberal Party free vote as a direct result of this campaign, I’m not a fool. I hope this campaign will help to lightly counteract the fear that is stifling political action on marriage equality. I also hope it will get more people talking and taking action, lobbying politicians, signing petitions, and supporting the cause. I’d love to see thousands of images of the postcard and the sky on social media and I want the Prime Minister’s IN tray to overflow for weeks.”