Radicals not setting back marriage equality movement

December 22, 2013

In his opinion piece “Will Radicals Set Back the Marriage Equality Movement?”, OutInPerth editor Graeme Watson writes that Equal Love is threatened by a “socialist takeover”.

The Socialist Alliance has played a role in organising marriage equality rallies since 2004. Rather than attempting a “socialist takeover”, we were one of the organisations that got the ball rolling in the first place. We were instrumental in reviving Community Action Against Homophobia in 2004, the group that started the first rallies.

We also helped to initiate the first national day of action, the campaign for civil unions in the ACT, and the massive 10,000 strong convergence on the ALP national conference in 2011 – the biggest queer protest in Australian history.

We would hope that Watson isn’t now attempting his own kind of “takeover”, to exclude socialists and other so-called “radicals” from the movement.

The recent controversy has centred around the sloganeering of another socialist group, Socialist Alternative. Their “Fuck Tony Abbott” t-shirts, and their banner depicting him being hung with a rainbow noose have attracted widespread criticism. The t-shirts are nation-wide. But the banner was only in Brisbane, and it is not relevant to the Perth situation. It is also important to note that the shirts were not made, sold or endorsed by Equal Love WA.

The t-shirts are quite popular among people who are furious at the Abbott government, but this kind of sloganeering has also proven divisive. The anger is more than justified, but the trick is to do more than express rage and find the way to mobilise the broadest possible cross-section of people -- and that way, get closer to winning marriage equality.

And whether you like the T-shirts or not, police attempts to disrobe people wearing them at the last Equal Love rally were an abuse of civil liberties.

Watson also took aim at Equal Love WA for taking up the concerns of queer refugees and transgender people. Equal Love WA was right to do this. The equal marriage rights campaign is not just a movement of the privileged people in the queer community.

We have a responsibility to stand up for the queer refugees being sent to Papua New Guinea; a country where homosexuality is criminalised. Further, Watson owes the trans community an apology for using his position as OutInPerth editor to argue for the sidelining of their concerns.

Watson also criticises Equal Love WA for not seeking permission to hold rallies. He should direct this criticism at the City of Perth, who place extreme restrictions on the right to protest. It is very difficult to get a permit.

In fact, Equal Love WA does not have to seek permission to protest. Protest is a human right and this is implicitly recognised in the Australian constitution.

The high court recently ruled against same sex marriage legislation in the ACT. Yet the Greens are undeterred, and will fight for similar legislation in WA. Right now we need to stand strong together. We need the biggest possible rallies and the broadest possible organising committees to defend the legislation.

There has never been a more important time to get involved in Equal Love WA. Everybody is welcome. And the more people come and have their say, the better our decisions will be. Join the facebook page to find out when meetings are on, or call Farida Iqbal on 0412 109 160.

The Socialist Alliance has been at the forefront of the marriage equality movement for nine years. But we don’t just support marriage equality. We won’t rest until queer oppression is wiped off the face of the Earth. We have a big-picture vision for human emancipation, and if you want to be part of our project send us an e-mail at perth@socialist-alliance.org or call us on 08 9218 9608.

[Farida Iqbal is an activist in Equal Love WA and a member of Socialist Alliance.]

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