When Macklemore released “Same Love” in 2012, it felt crucial. The A.V. Club would later note that the equal rights ballad’s “straightforward message of hope and progress hits the mark during a pivotal point of cultural shift… In that way, ‘Same Love’ is both a call to action and a signal that the light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter by the day.”
In other words, when “Same Love” was released, America damn well needed it. Campaigners needed the sense of outspoken solidarity, middle Americans still sitting on the fence needed a nudge in the right direction, and the government needed a reminder of which way the tide was turning, culturally.
It had been a year since Lady Gaga dropped jaws with the gloriously defiant LGBT anthem “Born This Way,” and somebody needed to step up and quietly express how sad and absurd it was that happy, consenting, adult couples still couldn’t get a marriage acknowledged on a federal level. If “Born This Way” was the rallying cry, “Same Love” was the feeling of frustration one experienced after another protest march with no end in sight.
At the 2014 Grammy’s, Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, and Mary Lambert kicked things up a notch, when they paired “Same Love” with a mass marriage ceremony — performed by Queen Latifah! — for 33 couples, both gay and straight. Madonna popped up at the end with a rendition of “Open Your Heart” and brought everyone to tears. The entire (slightly insane) incident, broadcast to the entire nation, was a giant middle finger to every state in the country that was refusing to move forward on marriage equality.
Fast forward to June 26, 2015, and after an insanely long legal slog — Vermont’s introduction of civil unions in 2009, Washington D.C.’s legalization of same sex marriage in 2010, the overturning of Prop 8 in California in 2010, New York’s 2011 passage of the Marriage Equality Act, Hawaii following suit in 2013, the Supreme Court striking down the Defense of Marriage Act the same year, etc. — the Supreme Court declared that the fundamental right to marry must be permitted for same sex couples across the United States of America. The fight for marriage equality was finally over. There were parties in the streets, followed by a sense of widespread relief, and, yes, there were weddings. Tons and tons of beautiful, revolutionary weddings.
And then, with surprising speed, the country moved on, because, once we’ve won a battle in America, we move right along to the next fight and don’t really look back. Once the marriage equality issue got resolved, “Same Love” became reasonably obsolete here. Just one year after same sex marriage became legal in the U.S., it was clear the memory of the fight had almost entirely faded when The Lonely Island gave us this (admittedly LOL-worthy) “Same Love” parody:
Then, last month, just as we’d forgotten about “Same Love” almost entirely, Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, and Mary Lambert found themselves in the middle of a national argument in Australia. After the trio was asked to perform at the National Rugby League Grand Final (basically Australia’s Super Bowl), not only was a petition started to shut down the show, but vocal opponents to the “Same Love” performance included former Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. Emotions around LGBTQ issues are running particularly high in the country right now, due to the fact that Australia is in the middle of a national vote on the issue of marriage equality.
Opposition to “Same Love” at the Grand Final, in some corners at least, was borderline hysterical. Bob Katter, a longtime member of the Australian House of Representatives, had this to say: “If they take the most sacred day of the year, outside of Christmas of course, and use it to promote their sexual proclivities, that is an insult and an offense to every single follower of Rugby League in this country… It’s tantamount to seeping sewage into the debutant ball.”
In response, Macklemore announced he would donate all proceeds from the Australian sales of “Same Love” to the Yes Campaign — the organization fighting to secure equal marriage rights down under. Macklemore also told a radio show before flying out to Sydney: “I’m getting a lot of tweets from angry old white dudes in Australia… [so] I’ma go harder.”
CEO of the National Rugby League, Todd Greenberg, also took the criticism on the chin, saying of the pending show: “Some people will like it, some people won’t. We make the decisions that we think are in the best interests of the sport.”
Not only did Macklemore’s performance go ahead, the National Rugby League doubled down on the day by displaying signs during it that read “We stand for equality.” Here’s how everything went down:
The fraught tensions in Australia, and the reemergence of “Same Love” as a vitally important and controversial statement, is a reminder that, while America might have moved on from this issue, there are still other countries in the world who’ve still yet to take this vitally important step. One day, “Same Love” will be a song for the history books; something to play your kids in years to come, as part of a civil rights lesson about how bad things used to be. For now, the track is still causing waves and starting conversations — and the world is a better place for it.