Marriage Wagon Rolling: Civil Unions To Block The Road?

Marriage for All demo in Paris: pic by Elendol

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus has given the marriage equality bandwagon a new push, and woken the ACL’s sleeping dragon in the process. Meanwhile, Abbott stance softens, and Gillard hints at civil unions.

Suddenly it seems like gay marriage is back on the agenda in a big way. New Zealand’s parliament passed their marriage bill with wit, song, and a thumping majority, leading the Australian Greens to introduce a bill to have NZ same-sex marriages  – and all other overseas marriages – recognised here. You can sign on to support the measure on her web page.

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus, with whom I met recently,(he gave no hint of his change of mind on this issue then), brought a breath of fresh air into the stale debate, saying,

“The mood has shifted. I think that the time is now right for us to move to marriage equality in Australia, and New Zealand,” Mr Dreyfus told Network Ten’s Meet The Press. “There’s no reason why this can’t be brought on for a vote before the election.”

Sydney radio station 2DayFM got aboard, with out gay newsreader Geoff Field and his partner Jason declaring they wouldn’t be hopping across for a Kiwi wedding, they’d wait for Oz.  The perenially shocking shock-jock at the same station, Kyle Sandilands, weighed in, starting his own petition for marriage equality, which some in the gay community couldn’t bring themselves to sign.

(At the time of writing he’d grabbed almost 15,000 signatures, so I suggest you just hold your nose and add yours. You’re not signing to say you support his antics, but to support equality. And the demographic to whom he appeals are among the very people we need to have allied to the cause if we’re ever going to win.)

Tony Abbott appeared to ‘evolve’ slightly, indicating that he’d let his party room decide whether to have a conscience vote on the issue – something he’s blocked up till now. But not till after the election.

Of course, the coalition party room could make the disastrous decision to adopt Civil Unions instead, something Chief Whip Warren Entsch – ever the pragmatist – is known to strongly favour .

Julia Gillard lifted her skirts a millimetre or two to hint that this was her preferred option. After repeating (at a public forum in the Deakin electorate) that marriage was between a man and a woman, she added:

“I have thought in this area that we should develop and purpose-create something new that guides us for the future. So that there would be marriage in its traditional form and there would be other ways of recognizing relationships that are full of love and full of significance.”

Why disastrous? It isn’t the half loaf that’s better than no bread, as Entsch, Gillard and friends would have it: it’s Snow White’s poisoned apple. Our half has the poison: the pollies half is harmless and delicious. It’s their easy way out, and the easy way of doing anything is almost always a bad idea.

Equality = Marriage. Civil Unions/Partnerships = Segregation, and we all know that separate but equal is never equal. Only full and equal marriage gives full credit and respect to our relationships. In most countries, it’s been a roadblock to marriage, not a stepping stone. Which is why opponents like Jim Wallace of the ACL will support it.

As for the Attorney General’s suggestion that we could have a debate – and even win – on marriage, before the coalition takes power, he hates the idea:

“It is ludicrous that the nation’s top law officer is pushing for a second vote on the same issue within months of its decisive rejection. How many other issues get this sort of special treatment by Parliament?

“Proponents of redefining marriage are determined to achieve their aim through legislation by fatigue. How much more of the Parliament’s time should be spent on this?”

Let me answer. The matter will be put to parliament every week, every day, if necessary, until our loving, committed bonds are publicly accepted and celebrated just like yours: until justice, righteousness, fairness and full unconditional equality – not just marriage – is achieved, and every parent is proud and happy at their son or daughters wedding, whatever the sex of their other half.

“Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,” said Martin Luther King, Jr.

The opposition have two choices. They can embrace the coming change, as the majority has done in New Zealand. Or they can fight grudging, bitter and ultimately losing battles that will forever shame and diminish them, as is happening in France. In Britain

The biggest uncertainty facing the same-sex marriage bill is how the House of Lords will vote. We just don’t know how much opposition there will be in the upper house. It would be a big mistake to assume that equal marriage is a done deal.”

[Peter Tatchell]

In France, they guillotined most of their aristocracy during the revolution, so no such antique blunderbuss is available. Instead,  the Catholic Church has made common cause with thugs and the dregs of far-right politics, whipping up violence on the streets. The Australian churches, the ACL, and their intemperate allies must be very careful how they proceed.

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)