Marriage equality advocates have called the past week a watershed event in the fight for marriage equality in Australia.
On October 24, a meeting of the ALP’s national left faction declared same-sex marriage in Australia to be inevitable.
The following day ALP left faction co-convenor Senator Doug Cameron told media there would be a “huge push” for marriage equality to become Government policy at the next ALP federal conference — due before July 2012.
Then, over the weekend, it was the Labor right’s turn to speak out on the issue.
On Saturday factional powerbroker Mark Arbib became the first ALP frontbencher to break with the party line, telling News Ltd papers, “If I was the parent of a gay son or daughter I don’t know how I could tell them they didn’t have the same rights as I did”, while calling for a conscience vote on the issue.
The next day ALP national president and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh revealed herself as a supporter of marriage equality.
“People should be allowed to do what they like on this issue,” she told a press conference. “If people love each other and they build lives together and they want that recognised, I think that’s perfectly reasonable,”
On the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday, Federal Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten said he personally supports gay marriage, but believes the wider community is not yet ready for change.
Shorten joins Coalition MPs Warren Entsch and Mal Washer who have both indicated personal support for same-sex marriage.
Figures from state politics joined Bligh, with the Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett stating he was not opposed to same-sex marriage, despite opposing a Greens bill to legalise it under state laws, while Victoria’s Education Minister Bronwyn Pike has been a long term supporter.
Victoria and Tasmania’s ALP state conferences both passed motions in support of marriage equality last year.
Australian Marriage Equality convenor Alex Greenwich told Southern Star Observer there was a sense of urgency around the issue in the ALP now.
“They know it’s something they will have to deal with, and probably before the Victorian or NSW state elections because they don’t want to lose more votes to the Greens,” Greenwich said.
“Although it’s a federal issue it still impacts on how people vote. That will either mean a conscience vote or bringing forward the national conference.”
With figures from both the left and right endorsing marriage equality, Greenwich said he continued to be mystified by Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s opposition.
“The fact is that the Marriage Act has changed a number of times over the years. We continue to seek meetings with her, but I think having the added pressure from Mark Arbib, Anna Bligh and Doug Cameron, three pretty powerful figures within the ALP, it is hopefully paving the way for her to be reeducated on this issue,” he said.
Greenwich said it was now time for Labor MPs with large GLBT constituencies such as Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek to join their colleagues to go public or be remembered for their silence.
In the meantime, GLBT activists continue to be active on the issue with 200 people attending a Perth rally and 150 attending an event in Canberra despite inclement weather over the weekend.
info: On November 20 supporters of marriage equality will meet at the State Library at 1pm for the next in a series of rallies.