A bad conscience on marriage equality
The Australian Parliament has shamefully sided with reaction in rejecting bills to end the homophobic federal ban on same-sex marriage writes James Vigus in Socialist Alternative.
In the House of Representatives, Julia Gillard joined with Tony Abbott to lead the throng of homophobic “No” votes. A private member’s bill tabled by Stephen Jones on 19 September, which would have amended the marriage act, was defeated by 98 to a paltry 42. A day later in the Senate another bill was defeated 41 to 26.
These votes do not reflect public opinion. The strength of the opposition in parliament stands in contrast to the overwhelming public support for marriage equality. The result also shows the weakness of the “conscience vote” strategy. Left to their bigoted consciences, 28 Lower House Labor MPs including Gillard and members of the left faction voted against same-sex marriage rights. Their conscience does not even extend to supporting the views of Labor’s support base – or even the party’s official platform.
The issue of same-sex marriage rights should never have become an issue of conscience; it is about meeting fundamental human rights. But the parliament maintains that LGBTI Australians are second class citizens. This they do with full knowledge of research showing the deadly impact of homophobia on LGBTI people. Homophobia kills and the parliament is promoting prejudice.
For marriage equality campaigners the conclusion has to be that changing public opinion, changing the ALP’s platform and lobbying MPs are not strategies that alone will force the Gillard government to change its policy. We must continue the public pressure brought about by mass demonstrations – an important feature of the marriage equality campaign to date – and force the issue again into the spotlight in Canberra.
The unrepresentative bigots in parliament have shown us who the real menaces are to LGBTI people. The Labor government is hoping the issue will now be buried and cleared off the agenda. But there’s every reason to think that with ongoing mobilisations the issue won’t go away. Our determined campaign will need to continue to get thousands of people out on the streets if we are going to force change in Canberra.
James is a member of Equal Love Adelaide.
Upcoming protests for same-sex marriage:
Melbourne: Saturday 24 November, 1pm State Library
Sydney: Sunday 25 November, 1pm Town Hall
Brisbane: Sunday 25 November, 1pm Queens Park
Perth: Saturday 24 November, 1pm Stirling Gardens, cnr St Georges Terrace and Barrack Street
Canberra: Protest the Australian Christian Lobby Conference! Saturday 6 October, Meet at noon in Victoria Terrace to walk and protest at the Conference at the Hyatt Hotel