Sorry guys. It now looks certain our neighbours across the Tasman will get to marriage equality before us – and there’s a video on the Australian Christian Lobby’s website that explains everything.
When out lesbian MP Louisa Wall drafted and dropped her Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill into the ballot box in New Zealand’s Parliament, she knew she had a slim chance of getting it picked out. There were already so many other bills in the raffle-like draw. But out it popped last Thursday, putting the country’s LGBT citizens and their rights in the international spotlight again – in a close vote, they’d passed legislation for Civil Unions in 2004, but New Zealanders would now seek full marriage equality.
Emerging from the debating chamber with the assurance that her legislation would be voted on in coming weeks, Wall smiled, proudly telling the assembled camera crew: “The Rainbow Gods have smiled at us.”
Further good news was imminent. Although NZ’s centre-right leader John Key had worryingly voted against Civil Unions eight years ago, the popularist Prime Minister had been quick to react to US President Barack Obama’s support for same-sex marriage earlier this year. “I’m not personally opposed to gay marriage,” he proclaimed at the time.
Here’s his statement this week: “My view has been that if two gay people want to get married then I can’t see why it would undermine my marriage to [Key’s wife] Bronagh.”
When the marriage equality debate comes up in a few weeks, every one of New Zealand’s 121 MPs will get a conscience vote on the legislation. Many of them have already come out in favour of it, and while there will be several conservatives in Key’s party who will vote against, since the opposition party leans left (opposition leader David Shearer has already stated his support) and since the Prime Minister’s views traditionally get the backing of much of his party, Kiwi LGBT campaigners are cautiously optimistic that it’ll pass.
Brand new website marriageequality.co.nz suggests 52 MPs have confirmed their ‘Yes’ vote, while only 22 have confirmed a ‘No’ – the legislation needs 61 MPs’ support to pass. We don’t know yet how 50 other MPs will vote.
Here at home, the outlook is a lot more bleak. When the debate comes up in a few weeks, Labor MPs will get a conscience vote, but there are several of them who will choose ‘no’, including the Prime Minister herself. Opposition leader Tony Abbott will also oppose marriage equality, along with every other Liberal – even through several of them would support it if they themselves has the opportunity for a fair conscience vote. But they don’t.
It has always seemed bizarre that Julia Gillard could be so opposed to gays walking down the aisle. Her Labor Party has in the past done much to support our communities in passing legislation to give us rights and reduce discrimination. And Gillard’s own political life had also begun promisingly… just check out the finishing flourish of this old campaign blurb from her student days:
So where did it all go wrong? Even earlier this month, up early on a Saturday for that Google+ Hangout, she would not give an inch, noting that her opinion about marriage was “personal and deeply held”, even though she’s not religious, or even married herself.
Our Vietnam veteran mate Geoff Thomas made waves last week when he recalled a conversation he shared with Kevin Rudd on this issue – “He told me Julia Gillard had previously supported marriage equality,” he confided, “but she’d done a deal with the Australian Christian Lobby and [conservative union heavyweight] Joe De Bruyn for the numbers she needed to take over leadership.”
What a revelation, and it seemed to explain so much that was previously baffling. Except – wait a minute – Rudd insists that Thomas’s recall of their gossip session is “not accurate.” And as for the Christian Lobby, they were also quick to negate the story. “ACL does not do deals,” its spokesperson countered. “Unfortunately this is just more misinformation from same-sex marriage activists.”
But a deal did take place. Footage of it has been on the ACL’s website for over a year.
Filmed just days out from the 2010 General Election, watch below as our Prime Minister Julia Gillard has a cozy chat to Australian Christian Lobby leader Jim Wallace.
So there you have it. An election promise. A deal. A verbal contract. Whatever you want to call it… it happened, and it’s still in place.
So what can we do now?
Marriage Equality is still going to be debated our Parliament soon, and even though most Australians support our right in walk down the aisle with whichever adult human we choose to spend the rest of our lives with, the seething homophobes are going to love it if we end up losing this one. And if the opposition under Tony Abbott swing into power next year, we may not get another stab at this reform for a very long time.
Keep up the pressure. If you haven’t already, visit the Australian Marriage Equality website here to get the latest daily updated news on the campaign.
We also support the peaceful but vocal activities of the grassroots protest actions which happen in several cities around the country every few months. Join them next weekend… here’s the details:
Yes, we write a lot about marriage equality on Same Same. We make no apology for that. While we realise that not every gay man or lesbian woman wants to settle down behind a white picket fence with one partner for life, there are a great many who do, and they shouldn’t be denied that dream.
Here, now, in 2012, we are all players in a worldwide moment for equality. And Australians are in danger of losing the battle, despite increasing and widespread public support. Let’s do all we can to get this one over the line. It’s time.