Same-sex marriage: does Kevin07 mean Kevin1907

Issue 

Kevin Rudd should overturn the ALP's policy of supporting the ban on same-sex marriage.

Homosexuals are second-class citizens in Australia, and federal laws discriminating on the basis of sexual preference are a disgrace.

The Howard government and Labor made sure of that when they passed the same-sex marriage ban in 2004.

But Rudd's comments last week to Sydney breakfast radio shock-jock Kyle Sandilands, in which the ALP leader defended marriage as a heterosexual institution, show that he isn't just reactionary and spineless on this issue.

He is also just plain out of touch.

It's not just that full same-sex marriage rights already exist in Canada, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium. Nor that Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland have these rights in all but name — in the form of "registered partnerships" rather than "marriage".

It's that the tide is also beginning to turn here in Australia. A recent Galaxy poll revealed that support for same-sex marriage has increased from 38% to 55% since the 2004 ban.

The movement for equal marriage rights isn't asking Rudd and the ALP for a supernatural act of courage here. All we're suggesting is that they listen less to George Pell, Fred Nile and Family First and more to the majority who recognise that the right to marry who you want is a basic democratic right.

Of course, the movement doesn't really expect Rudd to change Labor policy one month out from the election. That is what Sir Humphrey Appleby would call "a courageous decision" — unthinkable for Kevin07.

But the Labor Party should make a close study of the experience of its Spanish counterpart, the Socialist Workers Party, when it introduced a same-sex marriage law after being elected in 2004.

Yes, the bishops and nuns screamed, the right-wing media went apoplectic and the right-wing Popular Party predicted the end of civilisation.

But the mass of people (including not just a few Popular Party voters and members) just thought the law was a good and decent thing, to the point that it would be difficult today for a new Popular Party government simply to repeal it.

The fact Labor needs to grasp is that opinion is increasingly swinging in favour of same-sex marriage rights because a strong movement has been built on the issue. That's why a shock-jock like Kyle Sandilands can feel comfortable about putting Rudd under the griller.

Sooner or later Labor will have to change its position on same-sex marriage. Otherwise it will find itself facing an ongoing campaign, a struggle that will be won sooner or later.

The alternative for Kevin07, especially if he wins the election, is to lose more and more support on the issue to the Greens and the Socialist Alliance, whose lesbian and gay activists have been at the centre of the struggle since 2004.

That should be the message of these elections. They are a further important chance to stand up for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community against the bigots and the Lib-Lab politicians, and to make them start to realise the political cost of their backwardness.

Anyone who cares about equal love rights should vote "1" Socialist Alliance and "2" Greens, then put the ALP before the Coalition.

The bigger that vote, the louder the message for LGBTI rights. And the quicker Kevin07 will have to move from 1907 to 2007.

[Rachel Evans is an activist in Community Action Against Homophobia and the Socialist Alliance's candidate for Parramatta.]