Delays on equality empower the conservatives

Issue 
Conservatives are losing the battle of ideas in a dramatic fashion, with widespread support for marriage equality.

The conservative right has launched a last ditch campaign to swing public opinion away from support for marriage equality.

The Marriage Alliance, a new organisation dedicated to opposing what it sees as a threat to “family values”, was launched on August 2. Backed by wealthy businesspeople, the campaign hopes to scare people away from marriage equality by raising vague but menacing threats about damage to children and loss of “rights and freedoms”.

The backers of this campaign include figures in investment banking, former leading members of the Liberal Party and conservative religious figures.

The campaign is framed as a desperate stalling effort. On its website, the Marriage Alliance calls for a “public debate” on key questions that they claim still need to be answered. These include: how it will effect sex education; how it impacts on children; and how marriage equality could limit “freedom”.

This organisation represents the latest attempt by the conservatives to shift the public discourse on marriage equality back in their direction. Conservatives have been losing the battle of ideas in quite a dramatic fashion, with widespread support for marriage equality.

However, it is not just conservative organisations that are seeking to slow the debate down. The federal government has been trying to draw out the debate for as long as possible. It refuses to discuss the issue because of the threat of a conservative revolt by the hard-right of the party.

The ALP has not pushed the issue. Its decision to have a conscience vote for marriage equality signals that the Labor Party does not take its policy on equal marriage seriously and is willing to acquiesce to conservative layers in the party.

These delays, while they may seem to be putting off the inevitable, are dangerous to the movement. The recent acceleration of the political debate has been spurred on by a movement that has grown in confidence. Following legal victories in Ireland and the US — nations that are arguably more conservative than Australia — the marriage equality movement seized the opportunity to swing the public debate in the direction of an immediate repeal of the marriage ban.

This momentum can be stifled by the ongoing vacillation of the establishment. Wavering by the Labor leadership gives breathing space to conservatives like those in the Marriage Alliance, who have so far been crushed under the weight of rapidly moving public opinion.

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