Queer activist: 'We will keep fighting until we win full marriage rights'

March 13, 2010

On February 25, the Senate rejected the Greens' amendment to the marriage act that would have seen discrimination on the basis of gender and sexuality removed from the legislation.

The result was 45 against the amendment and only five for, with 30 senators not attending the vote. The major parties voted along party lines, despite the Greens' call for senators to be allowed a conscience vote.

The February 26 Age reported that Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who proposed the private member bill, said that for senators that were against their parties' position, "the only form of protest open to them" was to not attend the vote.

Sydney Community Action Against Homophobia secretary Rachel Evans said: "To clarify the Labor party's position, Rudd said 'I don't support same-sex marriage or civil unions'. Tony Abbott went further when he said he felt 'threatened by gay people' on a 60 Minutes report a few days after they voted down the bill.

"Labor and Liberal showed their staunch homophobia by once again voting down the Greens' amendment bill on February 25. It's abominable when there's 60% support for equal marriage rights. Labor and Liberal are out of touch."

The Senate vote was not at all representative of public opinion about equal marriage rights.

A May 2009 Galaxy poll found that 60% of Australians support same-sex marriage. A figure that, due to grassroots campaigning, has risen significantly since 2004, when an SBS poll found only 38% of those polled were in favour.

The Galaxy poll showed that youth were the most supportive of equal marriage rights, with 74% in favour. This, of course, was not represented in the Senate vote, as there are very few young people in parliament.

Despite the defeat of the amendment, the movement is not giving up.

"We're not content to allow the bill to get defeated without a massive response", said Evans, who will be running for the Senate, as a Socialist Alliance candidate, in the upcoming federal elections. "We've got a rally on March 20 and mobilisations across Australia on May 15 and August 14."

This year has been called a national year of action for equal marriage rights and many rallies and actions have already happened around the country.

There were actions around the country on Valentines Day and rallies on March 13 in Canberra and Melbourne. On March 18, Equal Love Wollongong will hold an illegal same-sex marriage ceremony in defiance of the discriminatory Marriage Act.

And in Sydney on March 20, queer rights activists will rally for equal marriage rights. Evans said: "Socialist Alliance calls on everyone to get involved in the national year of action."

The support for the campaign is growing and so is the movement.

In Wollongong, a community-based Equal Love group has recently been created. Its membership includes people from the university queer collective, high school and TAFE students, and workers. Its membership is mostly young people, a reflection of the high level of support for the campaign among young people.

Unions, like the Maritime Union of Australia (NSW branch), are signing onto the campaign. Evans said: "With enough support from unions and action on the ground, we will see an equal marriage rights bill passed.

"NSW Labor declared two weeks ago that it will create a registration scheme, and federal Labor has removed 85 discriminatory laws. So we are winning concessions along the way, but we won't stop until we achieve equality."

Registration schemes and recognition of civil unions are steps forward for the movement, Evans said. But she added they still send the same message that the relationships of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people are different and ultimately lesser.

Nothing, Evans insisted, but full marriage equality will do.

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