With all the marriage equality pledges suddenly going on in various states at the moment, it’s easy to get confused about what’s possible.
Australian Marriage Equality campaigner Alex Greenwich walks us through what’s happening now – and the best way forward from here.
With debate now beginning on marriage equality in the Senate, an ongoing debate in the House of Reps, and legislation now hitting state parliaments across Australia, many supporters of marriage equality are asking: “when, where and how?”
First up, we know marriage equality will happen and if it doesn’t happen federally we will get it done State by State and Territory by Territory, with same-sex marriage very likely to hit Australian soil by Christmas.
Tasmania and South Australia are the obvious starting places, both have legislation drafted and support from their respective premiers. But where does that leave those of us in other states?
In NSW the Upper House passed a motion from the Greens’ Cate Faehrmann in support of marriage equality with Coalition support, and in the Lower House independent Clover Moore continues to pressure the Premier and State Attorney-General on potential marriage equality legislation for the state with the most same-sex couples.
In Victoria, the State Labor leader has declared strong support for reform, there is support from Liberals such as Clem Newton-Brown, and legislation pending from the Greens.
Clearly, the ACT has been a trailblazer in the recognition of same-sex relationships and is now also moving towards marriage equality. Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr is one of the nation’s most effective marriage equality champions.
In the NT, Chief Minister Paul Henderson, has committed the ALP to a conscience vote on territory marriage equality laws.
“More Australians have engaged in parliamentary process to show support for marriage equality than on any other issue, ever.”
Support continues to grow in WA, and in Queensland the removal of rights from gays and lesbians has sparked a coordinated campaign to fight for them back and challenge the Premier, who actually supports marriage equality, to treat all Queenslanders equally and fairly.
But what about an impending federal vote?
This is going to be tough, although there are positive signs. The numbers are better in the Senate than the House of Reps, and in both houses those declaring “yes” continue to grow.
If Federal Parliament fails us we know this will only galvanise supporters ahead of the next vote. Polling proves enthusiasm for reform is growing despite resistance from some quarters. In each successive national poll more people shift from “support” to “strongly support”.
This is because Australians increasingly understand this reform is about strengthening families, and providing loving and committed couples with security, protection, and recognition.
Australians understand the benefits of marriage, and that is why 61% of married heterosexuals support a reform that will strengthen the relationships of the gay and lesbian friends, and ensure the institution of married is defined by love and commitment, and not excluding gay and lesbian Australians.
Jim Wallace and the Australian Christian Lobby this week displayed their ignorance on how important this issue is to Australians when they issued a statement calling on the federal government to “stare down the issue” and get it out of the way.
This completely ignores that fact that more Australians have engaged in parliamentary process to show support for marriage equality than on any other issue, ever.
177,000 Aussies supported reform through the Lower House inquiry, and 44,000 Aussies made submissions to the Senate Inquiry on marriage equality.
What Jim and his friends Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard need to realise is that many Australians are now emotionally invested in what they believe is a key aspiration for our nation.
While the states legislate for the reform one by one, the federal campaign will only continue to build steam towards the next election.
This process started at the last election when this reform found its place on the mainstream political landscape.
Marriage Equality helped Adam Bandt win Melbourne, and lead to a big swings against prominent Labor figures Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese, who hadn’t then declared support for reform.
We will now see the same thing happen to their Liberal Party colleagues, including Josh Frydenberg, Kelly O’Dwyer and Theresa Gambaro, all of whom know from their own polling that marriage equality is widely supported in their electorates.
Just as Australian Marriage Equality lead a targeted electoral campaign in the seats of Melbourne, Sydney, and Grayndler at the 2010 election, we will do the same in the seats of Brisbane, Kooyong, Higgins and others where sitting Liberal members are set to break the hearts of their constituents and vote down a reform that is important to couples, families and communities throughout their electorates.
At the same time, we are seeing an internal push in the Coalition towards supporting reform, one that is reminiscent of the campaign that began in Labor after the last election.
Growing dissatisfaction with Tony Abbott breaking a Coalition tradition and denying a conscience vote has been voiced by Malcolm Turnbull, and by Senators Simon Birmingham and Sue Boyce in their report to the Senate Inquiry. A number of Liberal & National Party branches have also begun passing motions calling for a free vote on the reform.
If and when Tony Abbott becomes Prime Minister the push for him to listen to the values of his Party and the wishes of people by allowing a free vote will only increase.
With the Greens almost guaranteed to hold the balance of power after the next election, and Labor likely to show more courage on this matter in opposition than in government, the stage is set for even stronger numbers in the next parliament, should the Gillard government miss the opportunity to make history in this parliament.
We saw the same thing happen in Tasmanian with the decriminalisation of homosexuality, which occurred under a socially-conservative Liberal Government, a Labor opposition that was true to their core values, and a gutsy Greens’ leader holding the balance of power, a leader named Christine Milne.
When you add to the mix that New Zealand is set to win the marriage equality Bledisloe Cup against Australia, and under a socially conservative government, our aspiration for this reform will fast turn to impatience if the Federal Parliament does not do what is right.
Should the Feds squib, it is inevitable that many Australians will use the next federal election to vent their frustration, to the benefit of those candidates who stand up for the values of fairness and equality.
Photo: Annie and Von with their daughter.