Advocates are divided on whether gay adoption rights in the ACT and same-sex marriage will be used as wedge issues in the lead-up to the next Federal election, expected as early as August this year.

Activist and spokesperson from the newly formed national gay and lesbian rights organisation Equal Rights Network Rodney Croome said he expected the adoption issue would be raised definitely, and marriage possibly.

The [adoption] issue will be raised from the right and from the left, Croome said.

Prime Minister John Howard, who told ABC TV this week there was still a long way to go before an election, has said previously he would consider using the federal government to overturn recent ACT reforms.

The reforms allowed for general placement adoption for gay and lesbian couples.

The advantage for the coalition taking up the gay adoption laws over gay marriage is with the adoption laws they’ve got something concrete to fight, Croome said.

In the absence of a concentrated gay and lesbian community campaign for marriage, there’s nothing for them to fight against.

Democrats senator Brian Greig said he was doubtful the coalition would pursue either issue.

I don’t share the view that’s been out there for a while in the community that Howard will use gay marriage or same-sex adoption as a wedge issue, he said.

The government doesn’t want to be seen as obsessive about gay and lesbian issues. Anti-gay politics just does not work any more.

The prime minister’s recent comments -“ that marriage existed for the survival of the species and that he did not support gay adoption -“ amounted to political dog whistles, Greig said.

Howard likes to go out there sometimes and make political statements, throw out bits of prejudice here and there, and he then tries to repackage them as being non-prejudice. He doesn’t go out and say, -˜I vehemently oppose homosexuals having equal rights,’ he goes out there and says, -˜I strongly protect marriage and the family.’ But the people who hear his dog whistle know what he means.

Greig said although he was not necessarily personally interested in marriage, he would welcome an informed political debate about the issue.

I think we should be vigorously pursuing gay marriage because it’s an icon issue which helps let out of the can all the other issues that we can and should be talking about.

When Greig tried to have the definition of marriage changed in the Senate two years ago, it was opposed by both parties.

NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Somali Cerise said the state’s activists were absolutely ready to campaign for a federal election.

Given the number of years this government has been in power we’ve really had no choice but to campaign on these issues, Cerise said.

Cerise said the Rights Lobby would concentrate on partnership recognition rather than same-sex marriage in the lead-up to the election.

We’d be hoping that parties like the Greens and the Democrats would be working with us on that, she said.

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