Tony Abbott’s government has managed, yet again, to delay making a decision about equal marriage.
Opinion poll after opinion poll shows an overwhelming majority of Australians supporting equal marriage — more than 70% support for marriage equality in the last poll conducted by Liberal Party pollsters Crosby Textor — but Tony Abbott continues to drag his feet.
As a means of putting to rest the internal division between members of the Coalition over the issue, Abbott made a vague call for a referendum or plebiscite to be held after the next election, justifying it by saying that he wanted “to put it to the people”.
Why this issue needs to be put to the people and not equally polarising issues, such as incarcerating asylum seekers or raising the GST, or why it needs to wait until after the next election, was not fully explained.
Unless, as many have pointed out, it’s not really about wanting to put it to the people and more about Abbott being a millstone around the neck of social progress in Australia, and delaying action around marriage equality.
Indeed as some members of the Coalition have pointed out, a referendum is not required to introduce equal marriage, as the constitution doesn’t require amendment — all that is required is an Act of Parliament.
If such an Act does eventually pass the parliament, which despite Abbott’s best efforts does appear to be inevitable, it will not bring about the destruction of society, as one opponent of equal marriage tried to tell me before the rally in Sydney last weekend.
What it will do is bestow the same rights to homosexual couples that are afforded to heterosexual couples. Society’s attitudes have shifted enormously and continue to evolve around this issue. But the continued presence of homophobia and the fact that rates of self-harm and attempted suicide are significantly higher among LGBTI people than among non-LGBTI populations, show we still have a long way to go.
But that’s what proponents of “traditional marriage” seem to miss, that this is larger than just the issue of marriage, it is about equal rights. If legislation allowing equal marriage passes, noone will be forced to marry someone of the same sex, just as there is no obligation to marry someone of the opposite sex. But it will have a huge impact on the lives of particularly young queer people by challenging the toxic and bigoted attitudes in society.
Indeed the cover we ran last week, “Queer pride saves lives” is a testament to Green Left Weekly’s commitment to this campaign. You can help us continue this important work by donating to the GLW fighting fund on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia). Donations can also be made to Green Left Weekly, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account no. 00901992. Otherwise you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 394, Broadway NSW 2007.