Rolling Stone Australia


When Marriage Equality Becomes Law, It Will Be Because of People Like Sally Rugg


When Marriage Equality Becomes Law, It Will Be Because of People Like Sally Rugg

The de facto face of the yes campaign for the government's voluntary non-binding statistically-dubious postal survey is Sally Rugg, GetUp's Marriage Equality campaign director. The indefatigable 29-year-old Sydneysider has been all over social media with her beaming smile and relentless positivity, rallying Australians — especially young Australians — to the Yes cause. Rugg initially intended to be a journalist, but during her masters in journalism at Sydney's University of Technology she realised that journalism wasn't exactly the force for change she had envisioned it as being. "What I thought it would be is kind of like, 'I can shine a light on the issues that really matter, and tell public narratives about things, and reshape the conversation.' But that's not journalism," she points out. "That's campaigning."

Instead she took her passion for advocacy to GetUp. At first she did junior administration roles — "like, call our donors whose credit card details had expired and get their new expiry date" — but when the 2013 election was called her skills in broadcast journalism became invaluable. "I was put onto making all of our election video content. And I just went from there."

"From there" meant that Rugg spent the next four years campaigning for marriage equality in the face of a government that seemed utterly determined to ensure that it didn't happen. Rugg herself isn't in any hurry to get married, but the issue is still deeply personal to her; not least because of the message that the current debate sends to young people discovering their sexuality.

"I think young people realising who they are and who they love should be the most beautiful moment in their lives, right?" she offers. "It should be special and exciting. But when I realised I was gay, it was terrifying. I couldn't stop it and I couldn't control it. It's like having a tumour or something, discovering something inside myself that I didn't choose and was stuck with."

That terror soon subsided, "because I just really like kissing women, so I was like, 'Oh, actually, I love this!'" she laughs. "But I know what it's like, what it must be like to be 15 and not straight and to just have the message coming in over and over and over again, every single headline, every single news report, that your place in the country is dependent on the good grace of the majority."

"I'm hoping [marriage equality] will be a really beautiful, unifying moment."

While Rugg has been relentlessly upbeat in her campaigning, she's also acutely aware that this is not merely an intellectual exercise about legislation.

"It's hard to describe the impact of anti-LGBTI advertising," she says. "I have witnessed the people around me, in my community, and everybody's incredibly anxious. Everybody's worn down. Everybody's constantly checking in with each other because we're terrified of losing people."

While the result of the survey won't be revealed until November 15th, how will it feel when Australia finally gets marriage equality?

"I think when it passes, which I'm hoping will be very, very soon, I'm hoping that it will be a really beautiful, unifying moment for the country," she smiles with genuine enthusiasm. "And I hope we can celebrate it and move on."

And it won't just be the nation that moves on: that celebration will also mean the end of an important era of Rugg's life. While she has no plans to stop fighting for the causes in which she believes, she's not certain about what the next step will be.

"It's been all I've worked for for so long that it's hard to think about what happens next," she says. "I'm thinking about writing a book about the campaign. Hopefully I'll take all my accrued annual leave!"

This article is part of our Women of the Future series, featured in issue #793 (available now).


Topics: Marriage Equality   Sally Rugg   Women of the Future


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