Australia’s queer community has been spurred into action by the government’s plan to rush the gay marriage ban into law this week, with hundreds of people writing letters to politicians expressing their outrage.
Labor MP for Sydney, Tanya Plibersek, told Sydney Star Observer she had received around 300 emails in the past week from GLBT voters around the country.
Gay rights activist Rodney Croome said he’d never received so many angry emails from GLBT people on any issue. And never from such a wide range of people either.
The Star itself has been sent an unprecedented number of letters to the editor on the issue.
The ALP has been shocked by the outpouring of grief over the ban, said Croome, who has spent the last week in Canberra lobbying Labor politicians.
They didn’t expect the issue would have such resonance, he said. They have been saying to me, -˜Look, gay marriage was never raised with us.’ But things change and people are upset, not just because gay marriage is being banned but because they feel their relationships aren’t being taken seriously.
The other thing they’ve been saying is, -˜Well, why aren’t you protesting?’ So it’s clear protests do make a difference, Croome said, urging people to attend the rally being held this Saturday at Taylor Square, Darlinghurst, from 1:30pm. It has been organised by Community Action Against Homophobia.
The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby encouraged the community to send emails to the Labor Party about their support for the ban.
It has been alleged this back-flip by the Labor Party was in response to 12,000 submissions by the fundamentalist Christian Right in support of Howard’s marriage ban, Rights Lobby co-convenors Somali Cerise and Rob McGrory said in a joint statement.
We must act now. By next Friday the 13th, we want Mark Latham, leader of the Labor Party, and Nicola Roxon to receive 13,000 emails expressing our outrage at their betrayal.
This has become a numbers game. It’s our turn to show our strength in numbers.
On Tuesday Labor caucus voted to support the ban on gay marriage when the government brings it up in the Senate. While the issue was on the agenda to be debated by senators yesterday, they had not done so before the Star went to print. However, the legislation is expected to be passed before parliament finishes sitting at midnight tonight (Thursday).
Democrats senator Brian Greig told the Star he hoped discussion on the Free Trade Agreement would take up all of the Senate’s remaining time this session. That way if the prime minister calls an election in the next week, as it is widely speculated he is planning, the issue may not be debated until a new government is formed.
During the Labor caucus meeting some MPs expressed their discontent over the party’s handling of the marriage issue, including Plibersek, Anthony Albanese and lesbian MP Penny Wong. The three were instrumental in the caucus resolution to examine implementing a national system to treat same-sex de facto relationships equally with opposite-sex ones and to consider any recommendations made by the Senate inquiry.
I think it’s a pretty good concession, Plibersek told the Star. It’s not marriage, and there are people who won’t be satisfied with anything other than marriage and I understand that.
Plibersek said the small number of Senate inquiry submissions stating opposition to the gay marriage ban didn’t help the GLBT community’s cause. Frankly it didn’t help me in caucus when I was arguing that the gay and lesbian community cares a lot about these things, she said.
Labor sources say only 100 out of around 12,000 submissions opposed the Marriage Act amendment legislation, but no official tally has yet been released.
Cerise said Labor was more concerned about winning the votes of Christian fundamentalists in marginal seats than re-building trust with the LGBT community.
Anti-gay fundamentalists will not vote Labor so it is a mystery why Labor is so keen to appease them, she said. After Labor’s broken promise on the marriage Senate inquiry, very few LGBT people will trust it to deliver on its commitments.