Before the Olympics took everyone’s attention away, the Australian Senate dedicated a few hours on Friday to setting the gay and lesbian rights movement back decades. Both sides of politics voted against a common enemy: same-sex couples who wished to get married.
Watching Friday afternoon’s debate on same-sex marriage, I saw plenty of horrible moments. An ALP senator who said sometimes homophobia was just people being sensible. A Liberal senator repeating the party line that banning same-sex couples from marriage was not discrimination. A minor party senator who condemned gay and lesbian parents for deliberately creating fatherless or motherless families.
In the midst of this, there were some who stood up for the gay and lesbian community, including some of those in the ALP who eventually voted for the ban. Most accused the Liberals of wedge politics, and pushed the ALP audit line, promising an equal society for the gay and lesbian community in all areas except marriage. Among them was Penny Wong, a lesbian from Adelaide, who has generally avoided political involvement in gay and lesbian issues.
One moment from the debate stuck out particularly, when Greens senator Bob Brown accused the prime minister of hating Australia’s gay and lesbian couples.
This is hate legislation, Brown told the Senate. The people who are on the receiving end of this discriminatory legislation will find it hateful. It impacts on them -¦ It is not a loving message coming from the prime minister.
He’s right. Whatever the prime minister and some in the ALP say, this legislation is all about them hating us. It is not about protecting marriage or entrenching societal norms. It is about protecting conservative votes and entrenching discrimination against a minority group. Before the Liberal Party raised this legislation (not once, not twice, but three times) there was no threat. Same-sex couples had very little chance of using the courts to achieve marriage rights. It was a battle that began with no enemy.
That enemy exists now. This community is pissed off. Sydney Star Observer has received more letters on this issue than on any other in memory.
Like waking a sleeping lion, this declaration of hate has fired us up. History will show this as a major loss for gay and lesbian rights. Only time will tell whether anger can make a difference.