Politics

How Close Are We To Finally Winning Marriage Equality in Australia?

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In support of Marriage Equality in Australia, SKYY® Vodka has partnered with Joel Creasey and just.equal to launch the #CheerstoEquality campaign.

Yet another glitter-drenched gay and lesbian Mardi Gras season has passed. Though we all had fun, the reality remains that Australia’s LGBTI+ community has not yet won the right to same-sex marriage.

Australia has been arguing about marriage equality for a long time. While democratic countries around the world are legislating equality left, right and centre, we’re still fending off the occasional MP equating same-sex marriage with bestiality or yelling “somebody PLEASE think of the children”, and struggling to get the issue across the line despite support from two-thirds of the Australian population.

If you’re a liberal conservative or Fred Nile enthusiast, you probably think this is just fine, thanks. If you’re moderate and/or interested in a society in which everyone has equal rights regardless of sexual orientation, this has become incredibly frustrating.

At an organisational and individual level, activists across the political spectrum are working tirelessly to get this much-needed piece of legislation over the line. So why can’t the government can’t seem to settle the issue at a federal level (regardless of who’s in charge)?

Where We’re At Right Now

Remember Tony Abbott’s notorious decision to hold a plebiscite on same-sex marriage? The one only 35 percent of Australians approved of, while 42 percent considered it an ill-fitting, expensive and fraught excuse for a solution? After a 14-month debate, the Senate blocked the plebiscite in November last year, leaving the federal government at loggerheads with the opposition over how to proceed on the issue.

Fast-forward to March 2017 and we’ve got Immigration Minister Peter Dutton calling for a postal plebiscite vote, arguing it’s the only way to a) achieve marriage equality; and b) for Malcolm Turnbull to keep his election promises.

The only way to achieve marriage equality is through a vote in the parliament. The High Court has made that very clear. Anything else is just a stalling or delaying tactic.

A Senate inquiry released in February this year focused on how to get same-sex marriage legislation right and ready for parliamentary debate. Anna Brown, Co-Chair at Australians For Equality, welcomed the “cross-party consensus on how parliament can work together to achieve marriage equality while offering balanced protections to religious freedoms.”

Majorities in both houses of parliament are rallying for a conscience vote on the issue, and around 70 percent of the Australian public just wants everyone to get on with it.

“That report consulted the various stakeholders [in the debate] and really got the balance right,” says Alex Greenwich, independent member for Sydney and Australian Marriage Equality co-chair. “So now that we have a majority in both houses of parliament and support from two-thirds of the population, we need our supporters in federal parliament to be working together towards legislation to a parliamentary path to achieve marriage equality.”

Greenwich argues support for Dutton’s proposed postal vote plebiscite is out of the question. “The only way to achieve marriage equality is through a vote in the parliament. The High Court has made that very clear. Anything else is just a stalling or delaying tactic.”

Who’s Doing What?

“For me, the wonderful thing about the marriage equality campaign is that it’s got really strong grassroots leadership,” says Greenwich. Individual marriage equality supporters are joining or donating to campaigns run by organisations like Just Equal and Get Up!, or lobby groups like the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL).

Chris Pycroft, co-convener of GLRL says these groups need to be persistent and attack the issue from all sides.

For me, the wonderful thing about the marriage equality campaign is that it’s got really strong grassroots leadership.

“We’re engaging with MPs on all different sides of politics because there are marriage equality champions within every party – Labor, Liberal, Greens, and Independents,” he says. “We know [a free vote] is the right path forward. It’s something that could be done at any time – it could even be done this week, and we know it would pass because the support is there.”

Marriage equality is an issue that transcends geography, and Tiernan Brady, Executive Director at The Equality Campaign is leading the charge to engage Australians in regional areas in discussions too. The Equality Campaign has been travelling the country holding forums about same-sex marriage in rural communities.

“We have everyone from uni students who want a more accepting society to grandparents who want to attend their granddaughter’s wedding telling their federal MPs why this change is important to them,” he says.

How You Can Help

While incessant Liberal Party in-fighting is making a free vote before the budget rollout in May seem less and less likely, marriage equality supporters are being encouraged to take action. So what can you do? Pick up the phone or bash out an email (or three) to your local government representative. If you can, organise a meeting, or volunteer for one of the many independent groups that are fighting for marriage equality.

What we need is supporters of marriage equality from coast to coast — in the cities and the bush — to talk their members into voting for marriage equality on the floor of parliament.

“I want to see marriage equality being delivered this year and I think it’s possible,” says Greenwich. “What we need is supporters of marriage equality from coast to coast — in the cities and the bush — to talk their members into voting for marriage equality on the floor of parliament.

“I totally understand that people are frustrated about how long reform is taking, but I think it’s important that supporters not let that deter their energy. We are all playing a part in making history in Australia and we should all feel excited about being a part of this campaign. It’s a campaign led from the grassroots.”

Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

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