Online only - 13 August 2015
Last night, the campaign for same-sex marriage in Australia suffered a major setback. The Coalition party room convincingly decided against allowing its members to vote according to their conscience on the issue. This means that marriage equality won’t be legalised in Australia until, at least, after the next election, despite popular support for change polling at an all-time high of 72%.
Speaking to my friends, gay and straight, there’s a sense of sadness and frustration. A cynical observer might say that a regressive and homophobic Prime Minister has successfully thwarted progress by use of “tricky processes” such as the unusual move of giving Nationals MPs a vote on the issue. I’m upset, because as this debate is prolonged, the chance to get married for many same-sex couples grows fainter. This morning on ABC radio, an elderly gay man, who suffers from ill-health, called in to voice his worry that he won’t live to see the day when he can marry his long-term partner. This is cruel, discriminatory and cannot stand.
We need to abandon the pervasive notion that marriage equality is inevitable in Australia. The fact that two-thirds of our federal government just voted against it should, alone, shatter this myth. Now, more than ever, we need to actively prosecute the case for change.
It’s important that we call out those opposed to same-sex marriage for what they are. Bigots, pure and simple. Marriage in this country is a secular institution that is currently available to heterosexuals irrespective of their desire to have children. There’s no logical case for opposing same-sex marriage and because of that, we shouldn’t accord ‘respect’ to those who continue to do so. Progress on US civil rights didn’t come about by allowing racists to be comfortable preaching hate and nor will progress on same-sex marriage if we give our friends, family and colleagues who ‘just don’t support gay marriage’ the same free pass.
The movement towards marriage equality needs to remain prominent. It needs vocal and visible supporters who don’t allow our politicians to avoid the issue. Last week, the MULSS Committee resolved to invite all MULSS members to march, under the MULSS banner, at the Marriage Equality Now! rally this coming Saturday. A strong turn-out at the rally, which is predicted to be the biggest in our nation’s history, is a meaningful way to register our opposition to last night’s decision. I implore you to join me at the march.
James Gray is one of the Queer Officers on the MULSS