You could be forgiven for thinking the creative team behind Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is now advising Labor Attorneys-General.
In the latest twist in the civil union plot, the ACT Government has proposed to allow a mobile civil union registry to travel to same-sex celebrations and complete paperwork on the spot, in a bid to appease Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland’s opposition to official ceremonies and allow the scheme to pass before the ACT elections in October.
Just how a roaming pastor-bus averts the ceremonial sticking point remains unclear. What is clear is that Labor’s machinations over the ACT’s civil union scheme are a legacy of the sort of wedge politics the Howard government turned into an art form.
The Prime Minister is no doubt concerned the sensibilities of the swinging Christian electorate may be offended by any move which undermines their narrow view of marriage. His concern stems from this ALP response to the Australian Christian Lobby’s 2007 election survey: Federal Labor does not support legislation to recognise same-sex marriage or civil unions -¦ [our] policy explicitly committed Labor to ensure that any -¦ scheme of relationship registration would not mimic marriage or undermine existing laws that define marriage as being between a man and a woman.
I have received correspondence from the Ad Hoc Interfaith Committee, described as a group of prominent representatives of major faiths in our community, with which over 70 percent of the Australian public are affiliated, opposing aspects of Victoria’s relationships register on the basis that it represents the virtual equivalent of same-sex marriage without the name -˜marriage’.
The Festival of Light has been more vociferous in its opposition to the proposed ACT scheme arguing it be disallowed by the Governor-General because the ACT’s unicameral system of parliament lacks the checks and balances present in all of the Australian states. The Festival of Light also opposes Commonwealth plans to end same-sex discrimination, arguing that same-sex couples cannot satisfy an inherent burden of proof owed to society in return for the benefits conferred by marriage, because same-sex relationships won’t result in the natural reproduction that is essential literally to continue the human race.
The GLBTI community has been able to mobilise an impressive lobbyist effort in the past, but should be careful a change in Government doesn’t result in a momentary and collective dropping of the guard.
The thing about wedge politics is the loudest voice in a government’s ear will often prevail. The future of any civil union scheme, therefore, is in your hands. Make sure the voice of the GLBTI community is heard loud and clear.
Senator Natasha Stott Despoja is the Australian Democrats’ spokesperson for Attorney-General’s issues.