Marriage Equality Dead

pic: Pikawil

The campaign for equal marriage is, as of yesterday, effectively dead on its feet

Malcolm Turnbull says there will be no free vote on marriage equality: a plebiscite remains the only way forward during the lifetime of this government. He was at pains to stress that he, personally, supports “gay marriage”.

Out gay Goldstein MP Tim Wilson also personally supports marriage equality. Until recently, he was working within the Liberal party for a free vote. He said he had “discharged his obligation” by having once voted for the plebiscite, and now it was dead. Lately he says it’s the plebiscite or nothing: despite holding one of the party’s safest and most small-l liberal seats, practically guaranteed for life, whatever he does.


Then, yesterday, Cory Bernardi left the Liberal Party. Unfortunately he failed to take anyone else with him, but many others, like George Christensen, warned that the Liberal party would continue to sink in the polls unless it moved further to the right – a view shared by Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz and the rest of the dinosaur faction. Bernardi’s defection has proved to be a game-changer.

Barnaby Joyce warned the party not to concern itself with gay marriage.  The Australian quotes “a front bench source”, leaking from the Liberal party room meeting:

“[Joyce] said if we continue to be distracted by issues which only appeal to people in George Street and Oxford Street but not in the outer suburbs and the regions, things will not improve. He then specifically raised gay marriage as an example.”

“The mood of the room was clearly anger that the agenda we tried to set last week had been derailed by a few MPs trying to push the issue again,” another source said.

They said there were several ministers prepared to resign if there was any contemplation of shifting on the policy of a plebiscite to decide the issue.

Read that last paragraph again. Several ministers threatened to resign if there was any move towards a free vote. Government ministers.


Did Malcolm call their bluff? No, he sat there nodding, according to the report. Did any of our so-called supporters in the party room threaten to resign from the party if there was NOT a change in policy? What did Dean Smith, Melissa Price, Trent Zimmerman, Warren Entsch, Trevor Price, Christopher Pyne and George Brandis, to name a selection, have to say?

Nothing. Well, to be fair, nothing reported – though if one of you cares to tell me how you remonstrated vociferously, argued and pushed back, I’d be happy to publish your words. Or are you too pusillanimous even to leak?

This is why marriage equality is dead. Because when push comes to shove, no-one in the Liberal party room has the stones to stand up for what is right and face down his or her colleagues. Not one. Not even a gay one in a rock solid safe seat.

Not even our greatest fair-weather friend, Warren Entsch, near the end of his political career, with nothing to lose. Although he did later demonstrate his true priorities when he ‘rebelled’ to say how pissed off he was that he would not now be getting a lifetime Gold Pass.

Pyne vaulted back to the other side yet again, blaming the impasse on Labor’s failure to support a plebiscite.


Outside Parliament, demonstrating their ongoing irrelevance, Australian Marriage Equality are wasting Lucy’s our money putting out yet another series of impressively glossy ads and a TV commercial, pleading pathetically for our rights.

‘Oh, I worked so hard to become a doctor/soldier/whatever so I could be all good and noble, make a worthy contribution to society, and you STILL won’t let me get married?’, they whine. Pass the Kleenex, I’m sobbing my heart out here. This war – and it is a war – does not need a series of beautifully styled e-Harmony profiles. It needs some fighting words and actions.

Quite apart from the dubious merits of the ads, the timing is monumentally stupid. Do they not read the papers? Did they not know that Cory Bernardi planned to resign on day one of Parliament? Or didn’t they think it relevant? Did they not realise that our opponents in that party would use his defection to slam the door on any softening of their stance on marriage equality? Aren’t they supposed to have good political connections, most especially in the Liberal party?


What’s needed now is a sharp shock to crack this impenetrable wall. I have no idea what it might be. It’s not going to come from Malcolm Turnbull discovering he’s suddenly a Liberal after all. It’s not going to come from any of our gay and “gay-friendly” Liberals taking a stand. It’s not going to come from AME putting their undoubted talents to work in a hard-hitting attack campaign instead of tea and scones and badges nobody wants.

No, everyone is looking around hopelessly, shrugging their shoulders and saying “We’ll just have to wait until the next Labor government.” I wouldn’t be so complacent. A lot can happen in the meantime, none of it good.

Unless equality campaigners and Liberal MPs supporters stop playing nice, rediscover their fire and commitment, equal marriage is dead for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile in Chile marriage equality moves forward.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)