The ALP national conference is almost upon us. It represents an important opportunity to see the party’s policy on marriage equality changed. But not if Julia Gillard has anything to do with it.
Gillard both personally supports the ban on marriage equality and is committed to it remaining ALP policy. This is despite the overwhelming public support for equal rights, and the numerous motions moved inside the ALP in opposition to the national leadership on this issue.
The proposal to allow a conscience vote is the latest manoeuvre Gillard has concocted to ensure discrimination remains law. It is an attempt to appease those inside the party who want to see the policy changed without upsetting Gillard’s support base in the party’s right wing, who can rest safe in the knowledge that the marriage equality bill will never pass on this basis.
Treating civil rights as a matter of conscience is nothing less than a betrayal of LGBTI people. Just as the Labor-led federal parliamentary apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008 was not seen as a matter of individual conscience, but one of principle, civil rights for LGBTI people should similarly be a non-negotiable, binding party policy. Anything less is unacceptable.
Equality is not a complicated thing. It’s simple really. It involves the government extending the established form of relationship recognition to all couples. It does not involve some second-rung B-grade version of marriage in the form of civil unions, and nor does it involve our rights becoming the subject of parliamentary manoeuvres which ultimately preserve discriminatory law.
But to win equal rights, we need to keep fighting for them. Majority public opinion is not enough. We need as many people as possible protesting outside the ALP conference next weekend so Gillard cannot just ignore us and push our rights to the side in her desperate efforts to hold on to power.
The rights we have today were never given — they were fought for. They are the result of thousands before us getting out on the streets, campaigning at work, in our unions and on university campuses for equality and respect, and forcing those at the top to listen.
As the convenor of Equal Love, I encourage anyone who can to make a heady, last-minute trip to Sydney to attend the protest (noon, Saturday, December 3, Hyde Park, Sydney). And whatever the outcome of the conference, Equal Love will continue to fight until marriage equality is law. We will be back bigger and angrier than ever in 2012 — and would love you to join us.
By ALI HOGG