Abbott’s blocking galvanises marriage equality movement

Rachel Evans (with megaphone) at the August 9 Sydney rally. Photo: Peter Boyle

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's blocking of a conscience vote for marriage equality in a six-hour Coalition party room meeting has angered supporters of equal marriage.

The grassroots movement for marriage equality, a defining feature of Australian politics over the last 11 years, has been reinvigorated over the last two months.

Rallies are being organised by Equal Love in Melbourne and Adelaide on August 15 and 16. Liberal MP Warren Entsch's cross party bill will be put on August 17.

On August 8 and 9, rallies took place in Sydney, Perth and Brisbane.

In Sydney up to 4000 people marched in one of the largest rallies for marriage equality since 10,000 came to the ALP National Conference protests in 2011.

In Brisbane, up to 4000 people marched — the largest LGBTI rights rally in the city’s history. Perth had a vibrant rally of almost 1000 people. All the rallies demanded: “Put the bill, pass the bill”.

Thirty-six organisations endorsed the Sydney rally, which was organised by Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH), including GetUp! and Australian Marriage Equality.

Unions NSW endorsed and promoted the Sydney event — thanks to a motion moved by Sydney branch secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) Paul McAleer. It was the first time Unions NSW had taken such a stand.

The motion also called on Unions NSW to assist in the same way for further grassroots actions until this bill is passed. It resolved “to endorse marriage equality and to campaign in support of it, and further call upon all political parties to support the immediate introduction of legislation granting full marital rights to all LGTBI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) people, as well as ending any legislative discrimination.”

A day after the Unions NSW motion was put, a community assembly was established in Sydney and Brisbane to protest the sacking of 100 workers by Hutchinson Ports. McAleer addressed the Sydney rally, and $500 was donated for the sacked workers by the crowd.

The indignity and anguish of second-class citizenship is propelling tens of thousands of young people and rainbow community activists onto the streets. Solidarity is moving great numbers of straight allies to join them. This is dangerous for the Liberal and Labor parties, who rule through dividing society.

More “dangerous” solidarity has been shown by the LGBTI community, with contingents joining unionists at the MUA’s peaceful community assemblies in Sydney and Brisbane.

Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten block the rainbow rights campaign at their peril. The movement has shown its resilience, and will not be deterred. When it does win, it will be another example of how ordinary people can win against archaic and corrupt governments.

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