We can stop Abbott's attacks on equal marriage

October 15, 2013
'Rising up and demanding our rights is the only way to win.'

This speech was given at a rally for marriage equality held in Sydney on October 12.


Today we are out in force to stand up to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and to speak out against the Liberals' mad attack on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI).

And yes, it is a full scale attack. Liberal Party governments all over this country are doing everything in their power to destroy 50 years of progress towards equality for LGBTI people.

We have seen this both at the state and federal level. In Qld, premier Campbell Newman was assumed by many to be a "nice-guy" Liberal, but upon election he rolled back surrogacy rights for same-sex couples, on the assumption that LGBTI people cannot be trusted to raise children.

We have seen something similar in NSW with Liberal premier Barry O'Farrell. Although he promotes himself as supportive of reforming marriage law, his government not only took away Sydney's rainbow crossing [created for the Mardi Gras] at great public expense but is now legislating a ban on chalking any rainbows.

The Grinch that stole Christmas has nothing on this guy who wants to steal our freedom of expression and ban rainbows.

Now, the ultimate insult comes from Abbott who has not yet been PM for a single month. We all knew he was against marriage equality, but has threatened to take action in the High Court to stop equal marriage rights being legislated in the ACT. It is the height of pettiness and cruelty.

What we are now witnessing is a systematic attack on the rights of LGBTI people.

What are we going to do about it? We need to regroup our forces, and get a social movement started.

So let's reflect on what we've won so far. Decriminalisation, anti-discrimination protections, adoption rights in many states and de-facto relationship recognition.

Does anyone suggest for a moment we could have done any of that without coming out of the bars and onto the streets and fighting?

Social realities are impacted by those changes. Slowly, we see homelessness, bullying and suicide statistics among young queer people starting to come down, but they still can't hold their heads quite as high, or walk quite as tall because their government is telling them they cannot marry, cannot adopt, can be expelled by a school or a church and cannot even have a rainbow of their own.

We haven't won in the past by hugging it out with the Liberal party, or giving a conscience vote to the ALP. Those are now discredited, failed strategies.

But we also won't win by getting angry and reacting and mouthing off, or using petty slogans which target individual politicians who we need to act against systemic homophobia.

And we won't win it by losing heart, or by going and getting married in New Zealand — we will win this the way we have always won it, by rising up and demanding our rights.

There are a number of specific ways that we can act even under this conservative government. We need to support state based marriage. It is not perfect, but it's a platform from which we can fight for federal marriage rights.

We need to demand ALP parliamentarians are bound to vote for marriage equality when a bill is raised. Let us never forget they have had the power to give us full equality at the stroke of a pen for six years, and now as soon as they are out of power they start acting like our best friends.

Paul Howes of the Australian Workers Union has said it — we need a binding vote from the ALP, not a conscience vote.

We have to remember our fighting spirit because everything we have won could be rolled back very quickly. The LGBTI community in this country is proud, strong and fierce and we stand up for ourselves and each other, and if Abbott wants to pick a fight then let me tell you he has picked the wrong crowd.

We have to get back onto the streets in force and start packing out these rallies.

And every person here needs to get active and involved! We want to see you at the Community Action Against Homophobia meetings where the decisions are made. Your voices are what makes this movement democratic.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

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