Ireland will legislate equal marriage by the end of July. The first weddings will come soon after. The overwhelming victory of the campaign to change the Irish constitution to make this possible has given the pendulum a huge push. Chances are now better than even that the first Australian equal marriages will take place not long after, in time for Christmas.
Consider the signs.
Overseas, Israel is pondering the introduction of secular marriage, open to all couples, in the near future, with even Netanyahu on board.The US Supreme Court is on the verge of announcing it will finally make marriage equal nationwide (we hope).
Here, Tony Abbott says he’s the last member of his family still opposed to marriage equality, and even he sounds as if he’s wavering. Malcolm Turnbull says he expects parliament to pass an equal marriage bill before the end of this year. The Labor Party seems certain to move to a binding vote for equal marriage.
Desperate last ditch pleas from the likes of Jackie Lambie and Kristina Kenneally (an unexpected coupling) for a delaying referendum or plebiscite are gaining little traction.
It feels as if the time has finally arrived for Australia to undo John Howard’s spiteful move – with full Labor support – when he raced to amend the Marriage Act. The measure passed within an hour of being announced. It can be removed just as fast. All it takes is will.
Both major parties are desperate to “clear the matter off the agenda”, “settle the issue before the next election”. The only way to do that is to pass it, and pass it now. Another failure would only embitter supporters and embolden the homophobes. The gloves would be off. There would be a full-on campaigns in the constituencies of equality opponents, regardless of party.
The Australian Christian Lobby is begging supporters for $250k. Australian Marriage Equality is building a war chest of $500k. The big guns of industry and commerce are starting to line up on our side.
The Prime Minister’s personal opposition is clearly weakening. He has done nothing to quash “this issue”, as he calls it. He makes rote statements of opposition, devoid of any passion or conviction. He barely seems to care anymore.
It would be nice to think these are symptoms of a dawning clarity, now the baleful influence of Cardinal Pell is withdrawn. The picture of the church in Ballarat – and Pell’s role in events there – emerging from the Royal Commission on Child Abuse, must profoundly disturb the PM. Pell’s glamour can no longer counter this. He is too far away to summon young Tony round for tea, confession, and a regular dose of his authority and charisma.
It would be nicer yet to hear Abbott stand up and say he has changed his mind, and he will now lead the charge for change. It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility. Guided and supported by his sister, it could be his next “captain’s pick.”
There is precedent. His retreat from savage economic policies won him a revival in the polls. His bold and unexpected embrace of fairness and equality might to likewise. How ironic it would be if reversing his opposition to marriage equality turned out to provide an even bigger one. It could be the one act that could save his Prime Ministership.
Ah well. One can dream.
There are predictable howls of outrage coming from Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby, David Van Gend of Australian Family, Bill Muehlenberg, and their fellow travellers, but they sound more and more like the bitter wailing of the defeated, bleeding out on the battlefield.
Their time has passed, and ours has finally come.