Marriage equality supporters need to reject the proposed conscience vote to amend the Marriage Act.

At first glance, a conscience vote might look appealing. After all, shouldn’t politicians be put on the spot? Shouldn’t they be made to show whether or not they support equality?

Isn’t it better than nothing? Doesn’t it mean that Gillard is ‘doing something’?

I think it’s important to reject the idea that civil rights are a matter of conscience. Civil rights are just that — rights. They are not, and should not, be dependent on someone’s personal opinion. They are inalienable.

Marriage equality is a point of principle, not opinion. The ALP should therefore simply change the law. No ifs and no buts.

Those who run the party don’t want to do this. The conscience vote is a tactic enabling Gillard to wash her hands of this issue. It allows her to look like a democrat. Having called a vote she knows the bigots will win, she can turn around and say that Parliament has spoken.

The ALP should send a message that love is equal, that it doesn’t discriminate and neither should Parliament. All couples wanting to have their relationships recognised should have that right

Over the last seven years, we have been fighting long and hard against this ban. The thousands who have taken a stand in the streets, in workplaces, and in their homes have played a massive role in getting this issue on the agenda. They have helped shape public opinion, including the opinions of many politicians.

The discrimination in the Marriage Act should be something we look back on like all other pieces of discriminatory legislation throughout history — with great shame and pity.

Let it be something we look back on and be proud that we were a part of the fight.

The ALP has agreed to debate the issue of marriage equality in December in Sydney.

Equal Love encourages supporters of marriage equality from across Australia to help put pressure on the ALP and encourage delegates to argue and vote for the ALP to change the Marriage Act.

Next Melbourne rally: Wednesday, November 16, 12.30pm, 360 King St, Melbourne (Vic headquarters of federal ALP)

Sydney ALP National Conference rally: Saturday, December 3, noon, Hyde Park North

By ALI HOGG, Equal Love Victoria convenor.

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