A leading international human rights advocate and Irish Labour politician have called on the ALP to back marriage equality.

Irish Republic Labour MP Eric Byrne called on his Australian counterparts to follow the lead of Irish Labour in supporting marriage equality – while Human Rights Watch LGBT advocacy director Boris Dittrich (pictured) has written to all ALP National Conference delegates urging them to move on the issue.

Dittrich, a former member of the Dutch Parliament and author of the world’s first same-sex marriage law which became law in the Netherlands ten years ago, told delegates, “in all countries where same-sex marriage was introduced a Labor government was in charge or supportive of the concept.”

“Labor leaders in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Ireland as well as the Social Democratic prime minister of Denmark [have] announced they are in favor of same-sex marriage. Denmark will introduce a bill within the near future,” Dittrich wrote.

“Over the last decade the Netherlands did not fall into the big void of moral decay. Interestingly enough, an increasing number of nearly 75,000 civil marriages take place each year, of which on a yearly average 1,400 are same-sex marriages.”

Heterosexual couples did not turn away from the institution of marriage, nor did the world isolate the Dutch. In the course of ten years same-sex marriage has been accepted by a large majority of Dutch society. It has become a non-issue. Even political parties which voted against the bill did not attempt to change it when they came into power.”

“The eyes of the world are on your conference. The Australian Labor Party is seen as a progressive party which supports the right of non-discrimination and equal treatment. I urge you to do the right thing and vote for marriage equality and join the group of countries which opened their civil marriage law for people of the same gender.”

Writing today on the New Matilda website, Byrne wrote, “The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered communities in Ireland have made enormous strides in the past 20 years.”

“The Labour Party, for which I sit as a member of the Irish lower house of parliament, the Dail, has been at the forefront of many of those great strides forward. We were the party in 1993, which finally cast the hideous 1861 law against male homosexuality into the dustbin of history. We set in train the earliest laws guaranteeing equality in access to goods and services for LGBT people and we created the laws, which protect LGBT people from discrimination in the workplace.”

“We are now committed to marriage equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual citizens.”

“I know that a debate is taking place in Australia on the same issue and I note that our brothers and sisters in the Australian Labor Party are torn as to what to do. I would urge them to look into their hearts. As social democrats and democratic socialists, the most basic values we share in common are a commitment to freedom, community, democracy and equality. We can only ensure that gay and lesbian citizens are truly free, truly a valued part of our communities and truly able to play a full democratic role in our societies when we say that henceforth all will be afforded equality of treatment and in the case of marriage, equality can only be achieved when all couples, opposite sex or same sex can stand their families and friends and enter a fully equal marriage.”

Australian Marriage Equality (AME) national convener Alex Greenwich, welcomed the support from the two international figures, which he said showed that the eyes of the world were on Australia.

“Labour parties and human rights organisations around the world will be watching the ALP National Conference and hoping the ALP upholds its fundamental values and by supporting equality”, Greenwich said, “Australia’s international reputation for fairness and tolerance is at stake.”

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