Star Observer estimates upwards of two thousand people turned out to march and hear speakers including Labor Senator Doug Cameron and Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon at a same sex marriage rally beginning at the Sydney Town Hall on Saturday.
Senator Cameron was among the first of a group of colleagues to break rank with his party’s official line on relationship recognition for same-sex couples and has promised a strong push for a change in policy at the ALP’s next national Conference in December 11.
Cameron told the crowd that commitment ceremonies and relationship registries were not acceptable alternatives to giving LGBTI Australians full equality and that he was proud to stand side by side with the LGBTI community in their fight for justice.
“If two human beings love each other they should have the right to marry,” said Cameron, “Love and commitment should be the test, not outdated and discriminatory Acts of Parliament.”
“We’re entering a period where if the campaign for marriage equality is handled strategically and sensibly the growing political and community support for marriage equality will result in a historic change to the Marriage Act.”
Cameron named Anthony Albanese, Tanya Plibersek and Penny Sharpe as fellow members of the ALP from NSW who had been pushing for full equality for LGBTI Australians within the party, and encouraged members of the audience and their friends and family members to write to the senators and MPs that represented them to “canvas the issue of equal rights for all Australians”.
Senator Rhiannon told the crowd that the Greens campaign to push the issue of marriage equality had had some recent success in the form of Adam Bandt’s motion calling on MPs to seek their constituents views on the issue, but that it was community members showing their concern through events like the rally that would give Australian parliamentarians the courage to do the right thing.
Rhiannon said that Cameron’s words at the rally were important as marriage equality needed Parliamentary support beyond the Greens. However she said Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition leader Tony Abbott remained stumbling blocks.
“You wouldn’t expect anything else from Tony Abbott but Julia Gillard is a big disappointment on this issue,” said Rhiannon.
“At times when you’re a prime minister you give leadership and this was an issue where we needed some leadership and she’s failed. But with people like Doug Cameron and the increasing numbers of MPs coming onside – and you know you’ve got the Greens there – we can win through on this one.”
Rhiannon finished by saying that a human right denied was a wrong for all Australians.
SENATOR DOUG CAMERON’S SPEECH
I support equal rights for all Australians. I support the rights of LGBTI Australians. I want to congratulate those who have campaigned tirelessly in the face of intolerance and institutional, political and cultural opposition to equality in marriage. Congratulations for the campaign that you’ve undertaken.
We’re entering a period where if the campaign for marriage equality is handled strategically and sensibly the growing political and community support for marriage equality will result in a historic change to the Marriage Act.
This will be a tough campaign. Nobody should underestimate the opposition that will be brought to bear against giving LGBTI Australians their rights. So it will be a campaign that we will need to bring about as much unity and sense of purpose as we possibly can because LGBTI Australians who wish to marry should have that right.
If two human beings love each other they should have the right to marry. Love and commitment should be the test, not outdated and discriminatory acts of Parliament.
No group in our society should be discriminated against or stigmatised as a result of love and their sexual preferences. In my view it’s a universal human right that all Australians should be treated equally before the law.
If we are serious about ending discrimination then all Australians should have the right to marry. Gay commitment ceremonies and relationship registries are not alternatives to equality for LGBTI Australians.
There are many who chose not to marry. But whether you wish to marry or not, you should have the right to chose- the same as every other Australian.
This is a debate that has been raging internally within the Labor Party for many years. Removing discrimination across federal laws have taken place progressively.
Anthony Albanese, Tanya Plibersek, Penny Sharpe along with Rainbow Labor and supporters like myself have been arguing for your rights within the Labor Party for many years and we will continue to do so.
The House of Representatives last week passed a motion urging all MPs to consult their local communities about this very issue.
A cross party support group for LGBTI Australians is being established in the Federal Parliament now. I will be one of the foundation members of that support group because no matter what happens in law, LGBTI Australians will still face tough times that many Australians will not and we should be there shoulder to shoulder with you, supporting you.
When you go home today I would ask you to email your local MP, your local Senator. You should seek meetings with your MPs and senators and you should canvas the issue of equal rights for all Australians. You should encourage your family and friends to do the same.
A number of arguments are being put forward against marriage equality for LGBTI Australians. In my view none of the arguments pass the test of intellectual rigor or fairness or equity.
The first argument I have heard is that in our society and with our heritage and our traditions, marriage has a special place.
This assumes that marriage is a social institution that does not evolve as social values change. There has never been a permanent fixed definition of marriage. If our definition of marriage never changed over time interracial marriage would still be illegal and marriage would still make a wife the property of the husband. That is gone and so should all other restrictions on marriage.
If our heritage and our traditions did not evolve we would still be flogging workers for insolence, using transportation to meet our labor needs and we would be hunting down aboriginals who threatened wealthy landowners. The white Australian policy would still be in place but things change and marriage rights should change in this country.
Surely if you want to protect and advance marriage then it should reflect contemporary social values and be an inclusive not exclusive institution. In places around the world such as South Africa, Argentina and Catholic Spain you can have a marriage between anyone- that’s inclusion- why cant it happen in Australia?
Another argument is that the Australian community does not support marriage equality as it is a fringe issue- this is the one I find really reprehensible – [that] we should just be concentrating on economic issues.
This is simply wrong. We live in a society not a market. We can manage the economy and build a good society. We must fight to build a good society where the market serves society and human rights and human dignity is respected and your dignity is respected.
Recent public polls show that a sizeable majority of Australians support marriage equality and more Australians support marriage equality than oppose it. I am with you for your fight for justice.
Your fight is a fight for a more inclusive and compassionate society. Your fight must go on and we must right the wrongs and change the law.