When US President George Bush comes to Sydney this year, it will be vital that we use his visit to draw attention to the ongoing struggle for same-sex marriage rights and an end to all homophobic policies. PM John Howard and Bush top the list of threats to civil liberties, including some of the most basic rights queers are still fighting for.
Same-sex marriage was banned by the Liberal and Labor parties in the lead-up to the 2004 federal election. Another federal election is coming up again this year. The queer youth suicide rate is at least as high as it was before the last election. Queer bashings are at least as common as they were before. On top of this, we are still denied the most basic of civil rights — the right to marry. Neither of the two major parties have changed their position on same-sex marriage since they banned. The right to marry is a right that the Nazis denied to the Jews. It is a right that was denied to interracial couples in the darkest days of genocide against Aboriginal people. The message from our federal government is loud and clear. It thinks that queer relationships are sub-human.
The attitude of the government is not the attitude of the people. A recent survey conducted by Galaxy Research revealed that 57% of Australians support same sex marriage and 71% support de facto rights for same-sex couples. Public opinion can be decisive. People power can topple the most repressive regimes.
Around the country, organisation is now well underway for the third annual August 12 national day of action to repeal the ban on same-sex marriage. Last year this national demonstration drew 3500 people across the country. More than 60 organisations have endorsed the protest so far. Events will be held in Sydney, Melbourne, Lismore, Newcastle, Perth and Adelaide.
This is an international struggle. Five countries around the world have legalised same-sex marriage, and many more have introduced civil unions. Equality between human beings is written into the US constitution. This was won through revolutionary struggle. Remember that famous bit that says "we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal"? This is why it is unconstitutional in the US to ban same-sex marriage.
The Bush and Howard governments saw where the tide of history was taking the world, and they didn't like it. Bush has been leading the international push against same-sex marriage. He even went so far as to try to amend the US constitution so it could be banned in the US! Luckily, this effort failed. Bush is coming to Sydney on September 8 for the APEC summit. Queers will be there to protest.
Another reason why queers are protesting at APEC is because HIV/AIDS is on the rise in Australia, the Pacific and elsewhere. The Bush administration has aggressively argued against condom use as a strategy for AIDS prevention. It is withholding tens of millions of dollars from HIV/AIDS prevention programs in Africa and Afghanistan. In Australia, HIV/AIDS infection has increased by 41% in the past five years under the Howard government. It's time to stop Bush and make Howard history. Join the queer bloc at APEC. Phone Farida on 0412 109 160 for more information.