In a bid to swell support, Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays (PFLAG) has called on trade unions to make their presence felt in support of same-sex marriage.

Although union support remains patchy, PFLAG national convenor Shelley Argent told Southern Star she believes unions are well placed to influence the debate.

“I think they can [have an impact] but I also think the more large bodies that know about it and back it, the sooner we get a bit of movement going,” Argent said.

“Unions can get involved and can understand if their workers are feeling better about themselves and their esteem is raised because they have equality… they will then become better and more efficient workers, so that’s to the advantage of the workplace and the economy.”

Argent said she hoped unions could have some sway on the Rudd Government by showing grassroots support for the issue.
“[PFLAG] is only one voice. Everybody needs to speak out and not leave it to others.”

In Victoria, a marriage equality rally in November last year drew strong support from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union — although not in an official capacity — and the National Union of Students backed rallies across the country.

Support in other union quarters is scant, with Australia’s largest union, the conservative Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association long opposed to backing gay rights issues.

The Australian Services Union (ASU), one of the only national unions with an official GLBT caucus, called GLAM, has no official position on same-sex marriage.

ASU national industrial officer and GLAM convenor Jo Justo — who  has personal reservations about fighting for the institution of marriage — said ASU members have differing opinions.

“People have long chased ASU to support marriage equality and the only official position that I’m able to provide on this is that ASU members individually have taken up the challenge of the issue for themselves.

“We absolutely supported and advocated for equal relationship rights for our members and we do so when we’re bargaining.

“But as for formally signing onto the marriage equality debate…we don’t have a singular view about marriage as an institution.

“Our position could be construed as not supporting marriage, but that is not our position. ASU members are respected to air their views freely and a number of members in different states belong to different marriage equality groups and are active around the country.”

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