Marriage equality has at least one union boss on its side ahead of this month’s ALP national conference.
National Union of Students president David Barrow is openly gay and campaigning for the right to marry his partner of five years, Curtis Dickson.
But unlike trade unions, Barrow doesn’t get a vote, so he’s making his plea to PM Kevin Rudd, ALP delegates, unionists, and any believers in social justice attending the conference.
Kevin Rudd is wrong on this issue. Barrow said. Public opinion has shifted and so will the politics.
Barrow, an ALP member, said he hoped Rudd would see that equality and religious belief could coexist. Both Barrow and Dickson are members of the Uniting Church.
Dickson became a member of the ALP because, he said, it seemed like the most effective way to make a change.
While ALP policy movement on same-sex relationship reform has been slow and marred by antagonistic debate, polls suggest students and young people are strong supporters of full equality for the GLBT community.
State students’ union branches have been vocal supporters of marriage equality since 2004 when campus groups in most cities rallied in support of same-sex couples.
Few openly gay trade union bosses or politicians have reached senior office, but diversity of sexual orientation is commonplace at the top of student politics.
The last three NUS national presidents have all been gay.
NUS also has two queer officers, Heidi Claus and Liam Byrne, who called the Rudd Government’s marriage policy homophobic.
Every NUS president since the union’s inception in 1987 has been from the ALP.
Barrow, who is six months into his one year term, said the Rudd Government’s decision not to repeal voluntary student unionism was disproportionately harming queer students who rely heavily on equity services provided by student associations.