Sydney’s Mardi Gras 2016 has successfully and joyously come and gone with so many “firsts.” But the work continues.

Sydney’s Mardi Gras 2016 has successfully and joyously come and gone with so many “firsts” that it is difficult and amazing to list them all.

Firstly, the event showed a significant evolution in support of gay marriage and gay inclusion in all aspects of Australian life, even since last year. The Mardi Gras Parade was much more than a show of fun and glitter – it offered an effective showcase of how the number of groups participating, supporting and promoting all aspects of gay inclusion in our society has grown exponentially.

Secondly, the business community has finally stepped out in “plain sight” on the issue for the first time ever. The groundswell of participation by gay and gay-friendly employee marchers of leading businesses such as Qantas, ANZ, Medibank, The Star, Finlandia and global financial giant Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWCs), spoke volumes on how really mainstream the marriage equity issue now is. Accompanied by the eloquent comments by the PWC CEO, the power of business views on this matter can only increase pressure on the Government to implement marriage equality.

And finally, another first: the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition publicly marched in the Mardi Gras Parade as a very visible show of personal support (although Malcolm Turnbull and his wife have quietly attended Mardi Gras for many years).

But the “glow” of this enormously successful moment should not blind us to the past. Let us not forget the decades of painfully slow legal protections now in place for gays. Let us not forget the thousands of gay people who have been physically bashed and abused for their lifestyle “choice.” Particularly, let us not forget the 53 people arrested during the first Mardi Gras Parade in 1978 whose names were published for all to see by the police and the media, resulting in serious damage or ruination of their lives.

In any case, the Mardi Gras “glow” has barely worn off, and already a massive controversy has reared its ugly head. The Attorney General has announced that, if re-elected, the Coalition Government will hold a national plebiscite in the coming year on the issue of marriage equality for the country’s millions of gay people. A storm of protest has apparently risen… From who?

The issue of marriage equality for gay people has been “won” across almost the entire Western world. Australia is now the only major Western country that has not endorsed it. As a consequence, it is now being consistently globally ridiculed and shamed for its utter backwardness and cowardice on the matter.

National public opinion polls consistently show that up to 80% of voters support marriage equality here. Governments are elected to serve the wishes of the people (within reason, of course). Gay marriage is a “do no harm” decision that any government can make.

The Turnbull Government should be moving to implement it immediately. Why has it not done so? Simple, really. A few dozen conservative reactionary MPs in the Coalition are blocking it, claiming to “represent” the wishes of their various electorates.

The Turnbull Government dares not act because these reactionaries will either force the ousting of Malcolm Turnbull as leader, or they will cause the party to lose the next election. It is absolutely guaranteed that failure to act on gay marriage now will result in a massive shift of voter support to Labor on this issue alone (leaving aside for the moment the Government’s current inaction on the far more important economic issues that plague the country).

A Labor Government will implement marriage equality.

In the meantime, what should happen now? One key action: Australia’s gay and gay-friendly community and groups need to use this year’s Mardi Gras success to continue to build momentum for gay marriage.

Step 1: The Coalition reactionaries need to be publicly “outed” through a targeted campaign of petitions and demonstrations to “encourage” them to adopt more enlightened views on the issue of marriage equality. These MPs have no right to block the will of the Australian people.

Step 2: All relevant gay and business community groups need to quickly organise an all-inclusive march on the Parliament in Canberra. The march needs to be led prominently by the increasing core of influential business leaders who support marriage equality, as well as all the country’s major gay and gay-friendly groups. The front marchers need to carry giant placards of the names and faces of the reactionaries thwarting the will of the Australian people.

A few dozen cowardly politicians cannot be allowed to loll in political backrooms and abuse their power. It is time to decisively show how fed up we all are with the Coalition’s cowardly lack of action on marriage equality.