You Can’t Compromise On Marriage

by Caitlin

For the first time in a long time, I went to a marriage equality rally at the weekend, here in Melbourne. It was notable in that, in addition to the usual suspects (such as Rodney Croome, still battling on), the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, and his sidekick Sen. Penny Wong, showed up and spoke. It was a nice sunny day, and we all smiled, did the hands-make-a-heart (looks-like-a-super-fund) thing, and dutifully chanted the rather limp slogan:

What do we want? Free Vote! When do we want it? August.

Actually, we want quite a bit more than that.

We want the same law to apply equally to any two adults who marry, regardless of the sex, gender or gender identity or any other distinguishing characteristic. The same law, the same words. The same rights, the same responsibilities. Equal before the law. No exceptions. No exemptions. And the immediate goal is to get this into law before the end of 2015.

Let’s be very clear about this non-negotiable objective of every rally, letter, email, Facebook post, tweet, and blog like this. Equality. And equality is not divisible; separate but equal is never equal. And now. Justice delayed is justice denied, and we have been denied for far too long already.

So, to Philip Ruddock, who wants to talk about civil unions and other options ; to Scott Morrison, who wants us all to take a breather and consider what the other options are; to Concetta Ferravanti-Wells, who says even to grant a conscience vote would be wrong; to Tony Abbott himself, who on the one hand would prefer not to think about the issue at all, but on the other, and only in response to pressure, has reluctantly conceded that he might just consider a party room conscience vote, on condition there is a specific bill proposed by a Coalition MP and seconded by Labor (you can just smell the enthusiasm, can’t you?); to Peter Reith, who thinks we should spend gazillions on a non-binding plebiscite; the answer is simple.


In case that isn’t clear enough: 

There will be no compromises. The goal is one law, with identical rights and responsibilities, without variance or exemptions, for all Australians. Equality before the law. Nothing more. Nothing less.

As well as throwing up these no-hoper options, opponents are also trying to shrink our chances by shrinking the window of time available. Our allies in the Coalition have – wrongly, in my opinion – agreed to hold off for the next two weeks, and not raise the matter again till August. And if a conscience vote is not granted in August, they have also agreed not to mention it again until after the election.

Just a reminder: these people are allies. Allegedly.

Bill Shorten has introduced a bill, and offered to relinquish ownership so that a Liberal can put it forward. He told the Melbourne rally on Saturday:

“What I offer Tony Abbott and the Liberals today is that if you don’t like that it’s the Labor people who are moving and seconding this law, we will relinquish our moving and seconding rights,” Mr Shorten said to cheers. “If you want to have your name on the piece of paper, we’re happy with that. We just want everybody else to be able to put their name on a piece of paper too.”

In response Ruddock today in parliament offered “some form of discussion” on some kind of compromise, “but that was denied.” Quite right. There is no compromise.

The logjam can only be broken if a Coalition member decides that August is too late, and he or she wants to bring the matter on now by taking a co-sponsored bill to the party room. After all, Abbott’s notion to look at the issue in August is not a firm public pledge. And we know how trustworthy his word is. Especially when he’d rather not think about it at all.

There is, of course, an elephant in the room.

What no-one is talking about is the not-so-secret hope – belief in some quarters – that within the next two or three weeks, the US Supreme Court will rule that marriage equality is a civil right guaranteed by the US Constitution, over-riding all state marriage bans. It’s very hard at this stage to see them doing anything else. Any alternatives would be extremely messy.

Try standing against #MarriageEquality4Christmas if/when that happens.

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)