The Liberal Party Is Not Worthy Of Marriage Equality


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When the members of federal parliament eventually do vote in favour of marriage equality, it will be a wonderful day.

Heartfelt speeches will be made, the result will be announced and a cheer will go up in the public gallery. MPs will shake hands and hug. Some will shed tears. Gay and lesbian Australians will get text messages from their friends and family members. “It’s about time,” they’ll say. “I’m so happy for you.”

Oxford Street’s Stonewall Hotel will be filled to the brim. Strangers will embrace, people will cheer for the heroes who led the fight for decades. We’ll party the night away. A man may meet his future husband, or a woman her future wife. Similar scenes will play out in gay bars – our safe spaces – across the country.  

Some people will finally get down on one knee for their partner, safe in the knowledge that the gesture means something recognisable in Australia for the first time. In homes around the country, couples will go to bed that night, holding each other a little tighter, knowing that their relationship is finally acknowledged as equal to anyone else’s.

You won’t be able to hear the complaints of people who campaigned against same-sex marriage over the sound of people screaming with joy. It will be a wonderful day.

The Liberal Party isn’t worthy of it.

The Plebiscite Is An Insult

The idea of a national plebiscite on same-sex marriage has been a joke ever since it was coughed up by Tony Abbott in 2015. It was clear then that the policy was nothing more than a delaying tactic. In that sense, it’s been incredibly successful. It’s an insult to gay and lesbian Australians everywhere, who should never have become the subject of a national, taxpayer-funded hate campaign.

The postal plebiscite policy the government has now settled on is even worse. It has all the terrible elements of a regular plebiscite, with the terrible elements of Australia Post and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (but not the Australian Electoral Commission) thrown in on top.

If your policy for a national vote cannot be carried out by the body set up to run national votes, maybe your policy is shit.

Malcolm Turnbull, who was supposed to be the great white hope of marriage equality, has proved to be a fraud. He opposed a plebiscite right up until the moment it stood between him and the prime ministership. He had a chance to show leadership this week and he blew it.

LGBT rights are now the subject of a proxy war for the soul of the Liberal Party – people who have lived with years of oppression and discrimination are now being used as cannon fodder in Tony Abbott’s campaign for revenge and Malcolm Turnbull’s vanity project.

In the unlikely event that a marriage equality bill makes its way to the floor of the 45th parliament, it won’t arrive there with dignity. It will arrive with an array of parliamentary tricks – floor crossings, suspensions of standing orders and questions of confidence – marriage equality will be accompanied by the howls of political treachery. That’s no way to achieve such a momentous reform.

Can We Wait?

The next election will probably be held late in 2018. It’s likely that Labor will win. Bill Shorten will campaign on a pledge to legislate for marriage equality within Labor’s first 100 days in power. Labor hasn’t been perfect on marriage equality. It had six years in power to get it done and it failed. But Bill Shorten, to his credit, has always voted in favour of it.

Labor will be aided by the Greens, who have always been on the right side of history on this issue. There’s no reason to think the vote won’t pass.

If we are forced to wait that long, marriage equality will come too late for some couples where one person is sick. I hope we get there soon for their sakes. For other couples, the delay means they’ve already missed out. Long-time activist Peter Bonsall-Boone died earlier this year before he ever got a chance to walk down the aisle. That should weigh heavily on all MPs’ consciences.

When parliament eventually does vote for marriage equality, it shouldn’t be because they tricked anyone. It shouldn’t be because of some personal vendetta. It shouldn’t be at the expense of young LGBT people’s mental health.

Whenever it happens, it will be a wonderful day.

The Liberal Party doesn’t deserve to get credit for any of it.

Rob Stott is the Managing Editor of Junkee Media. He tweets @rob_stott.