Lainie Arnold is a co-convenor of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced the election will be held on September 7, in five weeks time. I fondly recall the night Kevin Rudd was first elected Prime Minister in 2007; it was a night of excitement amongst the small party of gays and lesbians I attended at the White Horse Hotel in Surry Hills. It was an end to John Howard’s oppressive era, and we were so excited and hoped for so much from the Rudd Government.
The first Rudd ministry delivered enormous positive legislative change for the gay and lesbian community when, at the end of 2008, it amended 84 laws that discriminated against same-sex couples based on the Human Rights Commission’s report Same Sex: Same Entitlements. As we all know, a few months ago the Gillard government provided federal laws around the protection of gays and lesbians from discrimination through amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act. Basically, the LGBTI community has had a very successful six years.
The most notable law that was not amended was marriage, and the current government retained the legislation as it had been amended by Howard, specifying marriage as being between a man and a woman.
Kevin Rudd has recently stated his personal support for marriage equality, and while the Labor Party’s platform supports same-sex marriage, it is not binding and MPs and Senators are free to vote according to their conscience.
Tony Abbott has talked broadly about his relationship with, and support of, his sister who is a lesbian. However, the Liberal platform is to oppose marriage equality. This is binding, with the effect being that many Liberal MPs and Senators are not free to vote according to their conscience. However, this only applies to the federal government, and we have seen bipartisan support in favour of allowing a conscience vote on same-sex marriage at a state level.
Ultimately at this election, neither party has a particularly positive message for equality for gays and lesbians. While we have come a long way from 1978, some socially backward elements still linger within our major parties.
Let’s make sure we keep equality, including marriage equality, on the agenda this election. Write to your local members, speak to them at your local shopping centre, and make your voice is heard.