I’m angry. I’m angry because of the stupid political posing of the past few weeks. I’m angry because of the way that the central issue has been lost in family values rhetoric and misguided individualism. I’m angry because our community is without leadership and passion. I’m angry because this is all so unnecessary.

Whether we like it or not, marriage will always be the standard by which the seriousness and value of a union is measured. Marriage represents the recognition by society, by government, and by the law that the union of two people has meaning and demands respect. The Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill excludes us from participating in marriage, relegating our relationships to second-class status, enshrining in legislation the belief that the relationships that we form are frivolous, trivial, and less important than those formed by heterosexual couples.

I’m angry because we have been beaten.

The Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill represents an extraordinary victory for the conservative, homophobic, religious fringe. It should not be about numbers, but much emphasis has been placed on the fact that the Senate Committee received 12,000 submissions in favour of the amendment and only a couple of hundred against. Apparently it only takes 12,000 emails to ensure that a homophobic, discriminatory and utterly offensive amendment is made to a Commonwealth Act. Twelve thousand. I have been to dance parties where there were more than 12,000 people. It seems that we can mobilise en masse to express our right to party, but we cannot mobilise en masse to defend our right to be treated equally before the law.

I’m angry because John Howard and Mark Latham have played politics with our lives.

The homophobic Labor and Liberal coalition has traded our rights for cheap votes. Rather than encourage a rational discussion of the subject, rather than wait to hear the results of the Senate Committee’s inquiry, rather than postpone consideration of the matter until after the election so that nobody could be accused of using our lives as an election wedge, both parties have clumsily and opportunistically exploited our rights for electoral advantage.

I’m angry because the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby has let us down.

With its high profile and access to politicians, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby should have provided leadership and inspiration. Instead, it played footsies with the Labor party, desperately clinging to an outdated and redundant agenda, all the while defending its position with the plaintive cry of community consultation. The Lobby has never consulted me about marriage. In fact, despite the fact that a great number of us have an opinion on this issue, I don’t know anyone who has ever been consulted by the Lobby about marriage. I have attended numerous community forums and have never come across a representative of the Lobby, clipboard in hand, thoughtfully jotting down the community’s comments. The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby has demonstrated itself to be unrepresentative and irrelevant, a community organisation that is inexplicably reluctant to respond to or engage with the community it purports to represent.

I’m angry because so many of us have totally missed the point.

I have heard a number of people comment that marriage is not something that they have ever wished for themselves, and this is then used to justify complacency in the face of the introduction of the Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill.

It’s not about you. This is about us. It’s about whether or not we are prepared to stand by while our politicians allow their agenda to be influenced by a highly organised homophobic lobby. We deserve the same rights as everyone else. Not some watered down pseudo-compromise that defines our relationships as something other than that which is celebrated by society and protected by law. I want to be the person who decides whether or not I will get married.

I’m angry because this is all so unnecessary.

Whether you want to get married or not, marriage is the key rights issue affecting our community. With proper leadership, with a proper understanding of the issues, with a proper sense of community we could -“ at the very least -“ have won the numbers game and sent 13,000 submissions to the Senate inquiry.

Instead, we have shown ourselves to be self-absorbed, incapable of seeing the big picture, and apathetic about, and unprepared to fight for, our rights.

Bernard Ryan is a former committee member of the Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby and is involved with Community Action Against Homophobia.

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