So the Senate inquiry has said no, the ACT ceremonies have been castrated, the Equal Love rallies are over for the time being. But that doesn’t mean equal marriage is off the agenda.

In fact, thanks to the wreck of the Liberals, Labor has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move straight to same-sex marriage, at minimal risk.  The party line used to be that they couldn’t support marriage equality because that would send so many voters rushing to the Coalition, they would lose power and we would get nothing.

That excuse is gone up in smoke with Malcolm Turnbull. Gay marriage won’t spook anyone but diehards into voting for whatever remains of the Liberals for quite a while.

The other reason for opposing equal marriage is that Labor hasn’t the guts for a fight with its own homophobes. The party would rather take the lazy way out and find a comfortable compromise with them.

That means national civil unions (no one in their right minds seriously believes in the ‘nationally consistent system of state-based registers’ any more).

Civil unions, it is argued, are a ‘stepping stone’ to marriage that won’t spook the opposition. But events in the ACT have now destroyed that argument.

Civil partnerships in the ACT satisfy no one. ACL Brigadier Jim Wallace says they mimic marriage, and the Rudd Government has betrayed Christians who voted for it. GLBTI campaigners are rejecting them as $2 ‘marriage-lite’ from the Not Quite Right relationship store.

Clearly it’s pointless trying to mollify the anti-marriage brigade with civil unions, they will never be satisfied  — and now, thanks to Nick Minchin and friends, no one need bother. Their moment is over. Even if they all vote Coalition next time, and the time after that, so many others will be rushing the other way it won’t matter.

The time now is ours. It would be the height of folly at this juncture to settle for civil unions, when we have the best chance in a generation of achieving marriage. Everyone on all sides now sees clearly that civil unions are only an unnecessary temporary fix, so why waste time and energy on them?

They are just a delaying tactic. First we have an almighty fight over what rights a civil union confers. Then every few years, another fight over each additional right. Eventually everyone wakes up and says, “This is just a stupid waste of time and effort — let’s have equal marriage”.

Labor now has a golden opportunity to face down the fundamentalists in its own ranks. Kevin has more than enough political capital in the bank to spend on what is for him a relatively minor issue. And there is no longer any reason not to, if he really wants to.

He needs to find the guts, vision and principle of his Spanish counterparts — who had even more Catholics to contend with than he does — and go straight to marriage. If you’ll pardon the pun.

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