Two comrades in my Socialist Alliance branch are heading to New Zealand in December to "get married". One is New Zealand born and the other Australian born.
These comrades have no option but to go to New Zealand if they want their relationship to be officially recognised. The reason? They're both women.
In April, New Zealand's government passed a law recognising same-sex civil unions. Other countries, including Canada, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands, recognise same-sex marriage. In contrast, PM John Howard's government passed a law banning same-sex marriage and instituting second-class citizenship for queers.
The Howard government's ban was passed on August 13, 2004, with the support of the Australian Labor Party. In June, the ALP's Lindsey Tanner, member for the seat of Melbourne, told a queer community forum organised by Pride or Prejudice that the ALP was not going to stick its neck out to oppose the same-sex marriage ban if the queer community was not out on the streets, demanding marriage equality.
Well Lindsey — we're marching! On August 13, 2005, thousands took to the streets to oppose the homophobic marriage ban and demand relationship equality. The largest march, in Sydney, attracted 1200 people. More than 750 rallied in Melbourne and hundreds more participated in actions in other parts of the country.
I spoke for Radical Women at the Melbourne rally, answering a small group of critics who assert that queers should have nothing to do with an institution as conservative as marriage. I argued that, just as women entering the work force en masse has put strains on traditional marriage, winning same-sex marriage rights will speed the process of turning marriage — an institution based on property rights — into its opposite.
Tim Gooden, secretary of the Geelong Trades Hall Council, spoke for Socialist Alliance and was introduced by rally organisers as "a straight bloke". Gooden highlighted the hypocrisy of a government that insists that voluntary student unionism legislation must be passed to provide students with "choices" while at the same time denying same-sex couples the choice to marry.
Darlene Montgomery, a Socialist Alliance member from Sydney, delighted the crowd with her rendition of "Working Class Queer" to the tune of the Jimmy Barnes' classic. Montgomery's protest anthem called for the repeal of the same-sex marriage ban.
Organisers of the Melbourne rally — the Equal Love Campaign — have vowed to turn up the heat to get the same-sex marriage ban repealed and win full recognition for same-sex couples.
August 13 should now be placed firmly on the calendar of every progressive activist — gay and straight — as a day when we will take to the streets until the ban is repealed and equality achieved. We need a strong grassroots campaign to defeat the moralising of the parliamentary homophobes, with their record of pandering to Family First and the Hillsong Church.
And to the ALP we say: queers and their allies are out on the streets. We call on the ALP to reverse its support for the legislation banning same-sex marriage and to publicly call for its repeal.
[Alison Thorne is a member of the Socialist Alliance national executive and an activist with the Equal Love Campaign].
From Green Left Weekly, August 31, 2005.
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