The Equality Zombie Rises

Barren Lands
pic: Scott Teresi

The landscape still looks barren to me

Almost as soon as my obituary of marriage equality hit the web, the corpse started to claw its way out of the grave. It was, I was told, premature. The Parents & Friends of Lesbians And Gays, led by the redoubtable Shelley Argent, are girding their loins for fresh battles. Marching alongside is Ivan Hinton-Teoh and just.equal.

They have launched a campaign (the first of many, I’m told) to try to persuade nominally supportive Liberal MPs to do the right thing in support of marriage equality, starting with Corangamite.

Local member Sarah Henderson was lauded in June 2015 for backing marriage equality and a conscience vote for Coalition parliamentarians. Now activists say it’s time for her to step it up a notch.

This is the first in a series of local campaigns in Liberal seats, trying to build pressure inside the coalition party room, to persuade nominally supportive MPs like Henderson to keep raising the issue.

So far the party room roadblock remains firm. As I said in my last post, the PM remains firmly bound to the recalcitrant religious right, it’s a plebiscite or nothing, and out gay member Tim Wilson is firmly behind him. The only offer, such as it is, that the current crop of gay and pro-gay Liberals believe has any chance, is a plebiscite at the time of the next election. No thanks.

This follows the failure of ongoing negotiations to produce anything acceptable. This is not surprising, since negotiations only ever produce a compromise, and the LGBTI community is no more willing to compromise on full marriage equality than our opponents. You can’t be part-equal.

Activists and the community remain committed to full equality or nothing, even if it means waiting. The Liberal right will only countenance a watered-down unequal marriage-lite with broad exemptions for conscientious objectors.

Gay Liberals claim this impasse blocks any chance of marriage until at least 2019, which is the earliest date at which all Labour members and senators will be bound to support the measure. Assuming, of course, that current campaigns fail to persuade any of ‘our’ MPs (including the PM) to discover their spines and start behaving like George Christensen, threatening to cross the floor, or “do a Bernardi”.

Australians 4 Equality are also trying to goad pro-marriage Liberal MPs into action. They released a REACH-Tel poll:

The poll of 4742 people – in Chisholm, Corangamite, La Trobe and Murray in Victoria, Gilmore and Page in NSW, and Durack in Western Australia – shows 60 per cent of people think it’s important the issue be resolved this year.

Commissioned by the Australians 4 Equality lobby group late last month, the polling also finds 41 per cent of respondents are less likely to vote for the Coalition if it continues to block its members from a free vote.

A4E have also launched a campaign to get us all to fax (yes, fax, remember those?) our MPs, on the grounds that they must pay more attention to pieces of paper than they do to emails. You don’t need to hunt out your old fax machine from the cellar. Just write a letter, give AME your details, and they’ll fax it for you.

If faxing strikes you as little more than action for the sake of appearing to do, well, anything, I’d probably agree with you. A bit of a gimmick really. Who knows, it might do something, though it has more than whiff of Baldrick’s cunning plans. And in that spirit, perhaps next time they could try something that would really cause a stir, like carrier pigeons.

I’d love to see parliament house with pigeons flying all over the chamber, casually shitting on the assembled throng.Owls would be even better: the thought of turning Parliament House into Hogwarts for a day has definite appeal.

Meanwhile in stark contrast to the timidity of our alleged supporters, Death Eater Nationals MP George Christensen is boldly chucking his not inconsiderable weight about, hinting that he might cross the floor, or even defect to One Nation, if he doesn’t get his own way over a sugar deal. And you can bet that Turnbull will cop it sweet.

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)