The Labor Party’s loose collective of GLBTI members is confident same-sex couples will earn greater relationship recognition at the party’s next conference.

While Rainbow Labor failed to get everything it wanted at the three-day national conference, by playing by the rules senior figures in the faction believe the stage is set for a fairer marriage equality policy at the 2012 conference.

The GLBTI policy compromise -” which saw no movement on marriage or civil unions, but a Government undertaking to review relationship recognition for same-sex couples -” was the most contentious of the three-day conference.

Members of the party’s right faction were marched off the conference floor an hour before the amendment was to be introduced and ordered to pull their heads in and agree to the deal.

After 30 minutes of debate the right faction agreed and no public debate took place. Many from the left were disappointed they had been effectively gagged.

Senator Louise Pratt said many delegates -” from both left and right factions -” wanted to use the conference to speak in favour of relationship equality, but agreed progress had been made.

We should not be stigmatising families and I am pleased that we are removing from the platform the words that define marriage as between a man and a woman, she said.  Why should children of same-sex parents have to grow up knowing that their family is viewed as a second class family?

Pratt was the group’s most prominent player, but is not its leader. It has no leader or factional alignment, which meant members could advocate for gay rights advances within their own groups.

For the first time the group included influential members of the party’s right faction, such as climate change minister Senator Penny Wong.

In a significant shift, the ALP added the sexual and reproductive health needs of the gay and gender diverse communities to its platform -” the party’s central policy document -” for the first time. The move could pave the way for federal research grants into GLBTI health issues.

It will now be easier for organisations like ACON to make a case for increased GLBT health, ACON CEO Stevie Clayton said.

This means more opportunities for us to seek funding to reduce the impact that alcohol and other drugs have on our community, to meet the growing demand for our counselling and mental health services and to improve our programs for lesbians and other same-sex attracted women.

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