PM should say: ‘I do’ to equal marriage rights

Issue 
Image: Tim Twelves

This is a speech by Peter Boyle, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Sydney, at a rally for equal marriage rights in Sydney on May 25.

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Let me begin by acknowledging that we are gathering here today on stolen Aboriginal land, the land of the Gadigal people that was never ceded but taken by force from its Indigenous owners.

We pay our respects to elders and warriors — past and present — who have battled for survival and justice for against tremendous odds.

It is with this epic struggle in mind — an epic struggle that shapes the history of this country — that I am thinking, with fury, about two ugly words that have spewed from the lips of arch-bigot Fred Nile: “immoral” and “unnatural”.

Two ugly words that fuel the continuing bigotry that we keep hearing from the likes of the Australian Christian Lobby.

What a despicable multi-sided insult that was to try and paint equal marriage rights carrying the threat of a new stolen generation.

It was an insult to the Aboriginal stolen generations, an insult to all Aboriginal people and an insult to the victims of the ongoing discrimination that is the regime of unequal marriage rights.

The words “immoral” and “unnatural” apply, accurately, to a whole range of things other than equal marriage rights:

• The ongoing war against Aboriginal people and the consequent shameful never-closing gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Australia, for a start.

• The current gap in life expectancy of 11.5 years for Aboriginal men and 9.7 for Aboriginal women — that’s really immoral and unnatural.

• The fact that Aboriginal people are 15 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Aboriginal people — 20 times in WA — now that is really immoral and unnatural.

The treatment of refugees is another area filled with “immoral” and “unnatural” bipartisan major party policies.

• Indefinitely locking up desperate people — men, women and children — in concentration camps in Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island.

• Forcing Tamil refugees back to Sri Lanka when we have absolute and horrifying proof that some of them have faced instant arrest, torture and even death.

So all of us here seem to have our moral compasses in reasonable working order. But the same cannot be said of the people who run the government.

They seem to have a serious problem recognising what is really – and grossly – immoral and unnatural.

On the other hand, they are quite prepared to pander to the bigots of the lunatic right in their homophobic hysteria about equal marriage rights as some supposed terrible “immoral” and “unnatural” threat to the wellbeing of society.

Further it is not at all acceptable for the ALP to have a policy that allows its MPs a “conscience vote” on equal marriage rights.

First, the very existence of these “consciences” is debatable – given these MPs well-demonstrated inability to recognise real instances of “immoral and unnatural practices”.

Second, it is not acceptable to leave recognising human rights to the individual “conscience” of Labor MPs.

If it is Labor policy to recognise human rights then Labor MPs should act on that. No excuses.

For until then, there is a terrible price being paid by people all around the country for this pandering to conservative bigotry.

While equal marriage rights are denied to a section of Australians, bigotry and discrimination continues. Australia has one of the highest suicide rates among youth, and social inclusion — or exclusion — is a major factor driving youth depression.

We have been rallying and marching, year after year, because this is deadly serious. There are real casualties attached to this institutionalised discrimination.

And on behalf of the other Socialist Alliance activists I pledge to keep protesting and organising for as long as it takes to abolish this discrimination.

Australia urgently needs to follow New Zealand, France, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada,Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay to end this discrimination.

If Kevin Rudd can change his mind on this question then so can PM Julia Gillard.

She needs to stop stalling and say, “I do” to equal marriage rights now and get Labor MPs to vote en bloc for the Greens' bill on June 6 and bring Australia into the 21st century.

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