Equal love can win if we increase the pressure even more
Both Houses of Federal Parliament in Australia have overwhelmingly rejected equal love Bills.
In the House the vote was 42 in favour and 98 against. In the Senate the vote was 26 for and 41 against.
In other words our out of touch Parliamentarians rejected marriage equality by a margin of about 65% to 35%. Ironically these figures are almost exactly the reverse of the support the general population has for same sex marriage. A Galaxy poll in August put the figure of those in favour of equal love at 64%.
The Federal vote was a cynical ploy by the Prime Minister to get equal love off the agenda in the run up to the next election. As former Greens’ leader Bob Brown commented, ‘Labor “engineered” the failed vote.’
But the issue will not go away. Nor should we let it.
In Tasmania an equal love Bill has passed the Lower House and is now awaiting debate in the Upper House. The numbers are tight. It may pass; it may not.
In New South Wales the Liberal National Government will allow a conscience vote and early indications are that marriage equality might become law there.
In the ACT the Labor minority Government, with the support of the Greens, passed revised civil unions legislation a few weeks ago.
There is an election in the ACT on 20 October. The Greens may lose up to 3 of their 4 current seats if the not very reliable polls are any guide.
At the Equal Love demonstrations in Canberra in August the message from the 200 demonstrators was clear – equal love not civil unions. Yet the Greens did not move for equal love. Instead they ‘reluctantly’ supported civil unions.
This was a step back. The mild, unadventurous Greens in the ACT once again led from behind. They are so far behind Barrie O’Farrell is actually in front of them on this issue. Parliamentary cretinism and fake leftism at its best.
But at least we have a ban on plastic grocery bags.
There is no legislative or constitutional impediment stopping the ACT Parliament adopting same sex marriage. That the ACT Greens have not so moved already is a disgrace, indicative of their love affair with Parliament and their effective abandonment of the one strategy - activism generally – which in this case has the capacity to win equal love.
Some of the backsliders in Federal Parliament have begun talking about Federal civil unions or partnerships legislation.
Greens’ Senator Sarah Hansen-Young rejected such a move saying that it does not give equality but reinforces discrimination.
Perhaps Senator Hansen-Young should tell her ACT Green colleagues that.
I would have thought, even from the point of view of parliamentary cretinism, that if the ACT Greens want to keep or increase their vote, then a clear commitment to same sex marriage with a timetable of introduction of such a Bill in the first sitting after the October 20 election, would be appropriate.
In Canberra we need to not only pressure the Labor Party but the Greens. That raises the wider point. How can we win same sex marriage, whether it be from the conservatives in Labor or the Liberals or, in the case of the ACT, the Greens?
The issue of equal love is only on the agenda today because of the actions of activists in mobilising thousands around Australia to demonstrate for marriage equality.
The vote in Federal Parliament against marriage equality shows not that the movement has failed but that it has not yet won the final battle. The fact that equal love is only on the agenda because of grass roots activism shows the way forward. Build the campaign. Make it stronger and bigger and louder.
Now is exactly the wrong time to let cynical politicians like Gillard and Abbott win on this issue by not responding strongly. Increase the pressure on the streets, in our unions, in our workplaces.
The Greens, as the wishy washy response in the ACT shows, have been sitting on their hands. They have not for example been active as a party in the Equal Love demonstrations or campaign.
Instead of worrying about Green bums on seats, it is time for the Greens and their many members to throw themselves wholeheartedly into the equal love campaign and demonstrations.
The fight for equality will continue.
In the United States the fight for civil rights and legislative equality took many years. It wasn’t won in the Houses of Congress but on the streets. It involved mobilising millions. It involved civil disobedience and social disruption.
Like the fight for civil rights in the US, the fight for same sex marriage is a fight for equality. The same tactics will be needed for it to win. The time for sitting at the back of the bus has passed.
It is no good waiting till the numbers are there in Parliament in some far off never never land. The time is now to force the Parliamentarians to vote for marriage equality.
That won’t happen by having polite cups of tea with the homophobes and their allies in the Labor and Liberal Parties.
The history of progress under Australian capitalism has been the history of struggle.
Rather than dropping the pressure, now is the time to up the ante and build mass demonstrations across the country for marriage equality, rallies that keep the issue even more firmly on the agenda and which say we want equality and we want it now.
We will not go away in our fight for equality.
In Canberra Equal Love is holding a demonstration against the homophobia of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) and for marriage equality on 6 October from noon at Queen Victoria Terrace. The ACL today came out in support of Senator Cory Bernardi who mentioned bestiality in his speech against equal love. They have also argued that homosexuality s more life threatening than smoking. Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who voted against equal love, was to be their key not speaker this year but withdrew after the smoking comment.
The next national day of action will be on around Australia on the weekend of 24 and 25 November.