Ireland has begun to grow up. When Boyzone star Stephen Gateley died, he was given a full Catholic funeral with his civil partner Andy Cowles accorded all the respect of a traditional spouse.
When hurling star Donal Og Cusack came out, he was greeted with respect and applause for his courage.
(Hurling is a tough, fast team sport with a standing in Ireland akin to footy here. Cusack is a star goalkeeper, a tough man in a tough game, an outspoken advocate for players welfare.)
Stephen Gately’s funeral and Donal Og Cusack’s coming out brought into public focus the changed nature of Irish society. Once little more than a damp, far-flung Vatican suburb, virtually ruled by the church and its allies, the country is shrugging off its past.
A new kind of Ireland is emerging, with a grown-up attitude to gays and lesbians. The Government expects to enact civil partnerships into law by the end of the year.
Which makes the Australian Labor Government look pretty silly. While the former subjects of a near-theocracy are standing up to their former masters, our allegedly open, progressive multicultural Government remains on its knees before them.
It has managed some long-overdue piecemeal and partial removal of disadvantages. But it connives at the entrenchment of religious discrimination in Victoria and even its extension in Tasmania. It can’t get its act together to bring in an over-arching nationwide anti-discrimination framework.
It lumbers itself with a failed ‘state-based relationship recognition’ policy which it can’t foist on unwilling states, even where it’s in power. And it tries to disguise a discriminatory marriage policy by slapping a bit of lippy on it.
It completely excludes GLBTI from its social inclusion program. It neglects our pressing needs in areas like mental health, caring, and ageing. And despite the fact that we are the largest single minority in the country, the idea of a ministry to handle all GLBTI-related issues is laughed off as ridiculous. And all because they are too scared to stand up to the clerical bullies. What will it take to get them off their knees?
Labor has made up somewhat for the decades of neglect we endured under John Howard, for which it deserves some thanks. Is this enough to buy our votes, along with the promise of ‘jam tomorrow’ if they win the next election? Or should we put our efforts squarely behind the only unequivocally pro-gay party, the Greens?
In electorates where the choice is between Labor and the Coalition — no contest. Labor has acted, where the Coalition would not.
In places where the Greens run a close second to Labor, the choice is more difficult. The Labor MPs most vulnerable to Green challenge are progressives. If we throw our full weight behind the Greens, we risk ending up with a Labor Party even further to the right.
But since the GLBTI vote is nowhere big enough to affect the outcome by itself, we can afford to vote Green and give them a scare. Because until they stop taking us for granted and learn to fear us a little, they will remain on their knees facing Rome. And we’ll be the ones hurling.