Polly Bush’s blow by blow account of the people, the politics, the parliamentary debate and the tactics in Howard’s dog whistle on homosexuals.
Polly Bush is a Webdiary columnist. Her spoof of Howard�s anti-gay laws is at Keeping it queer.
Another Howard election, another Let’s-Attack-A-Minority-Group-Electoral Wheel of Fortune, with the Howard Government seemingly perfecting the wheel’s spin.
A couple of years ago, shortly after the US President’s infamous ‘axis of evil’ state of the union address, a mate of mine suggested Howard had his own ‘axis of evil’. It went something like this: Blacks � not stolen, no land rights. Asylum Seekers � shouldn’t come here, could be terrorists. Gays � shouldn’t breed, don’t have real relationships.
As fear and loathing is one of Howard’s election specialties, the news of the Government’s proposal to write in legislation to ban gay and lesbian couples from marriage and overseas adoption rights came as no surprise.
Indeed, the gay wedge potential was flagged on Webdiary by both Margo and long-time gay rights activist Rodney Croome in Wedge watch.
The “sweetener” to these pieces of legislation was the Government finally agreeing to give gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples in superannuation (albeit under the vague definition of interdependence). Given the one step forward, two steps back approach, the victory was bittersweet for many in the gay and lesbian community.
“The Howard Government has had their hands in our coffins for nine years and are now trying to create a diversion while denying our rights,” the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby Group’s David McCarthy said.
Behind the proposal to enforce a ban on gay marriage was a group of backbenchers led by Liberal Senator Guy Barnett.
In a piece published in The Australian (�Guy Barnett: Let’s not get mixed up on matrimony�, 27 April 2004), Barnett wrote:
“To remove the growing doubt about the future of marriage as a fundamental institution in society, I drafted a letter to the Prime Minister that was signed by 30 of my federal Coalition colleagues, and it recommends federal amending legislation to achieve this objective. Marriage is a rock-solid institution. It’s not a fashion to be updated.”
Still, it must be trendy to persecute people. When the trendsetting Attorney-General Philip Ruddock first announced amendments banning gay and lesbian couples from marriage and overseas adoption rights, one of the intentions would have been to sit back and watch the Opposition implode – a mini Tampa take two of sorts.
The Opposition had the usual suspects vocal about the amendments discriminatory elements, but the ALP toed Howard�s line on accepting � while referring the matter to a Senate Committee – the Coalition’s rewrite of marriage as being exclusively between a man and a woman.
What Howard may not have expected was the small but passionate uproar amongst his own team, a team normally resigned to sewing their lips together on Government policies they oppose.
Warren Entsch, a North Queensland member, who admitted Howard might be surprised by his views, joined Chris Pyne, Peter King, Mal Washer, Alan Eggleston, Judi Moylan, Petro Georgiou and Senator Marise Payne in voicing their opposition to the amendments in what was described as a �heated� party room debate.
Wentworth MP Peter King told the Sydney Star Observer:
The important thing is that commonwealth legislation not discriminate against gay and lesbian couples. And I’m concerned, as I’ve said in the party room, that the danger of this is it looks to be a gratuitous insult. I’m also disappointed this is not a conscience vote. Normally such issues are treated as conscience votes, and I can see why that would be appropriate in this case.
Also vocal in the party room was Trish Worth, fearing such legislation could mean the loss of her Adelaide seat. Worth also suggested Howard was getting right behind George W. Bush with the sudden introduction of the issue.
And in the wake of a travel rorts expose, Trish Draper probably breathed a huge sigh of relief and privately pondered the meaning of ‘spouse’.
As former Liberal and now Democrats member Greg Barns wrote in Online Opinion, such a proposal ten years ago would have sparked a healthy debate within the Liberal Party. But not now, not under Howard’s regime:
Media reports that Mr Howard’s Cabinet last week decided to amend the Marriage Act to insert the common-law definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman should disturb liberals like Defence Minister Robert Hill, Communications Minister Daryl Williams and Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone. Yet there is no sign that they are dissenting from the Cabinet decision on this issue. What sort of signal does that send to backbenchers like Senator Marise Payne, New South Wales backbencher Bruce Baird and Victorian MP Petro Georgiou � about the only three MPs in Mr Howard’s Party who have put their heads above the parapet over the past decade to assert liberal values of tolerance and respect?
While the Government had its small group of dissenters, most members were willing to sell the Government�s line. In a debate with Labor’s Tanya Plibersek on ABC’s Lateline, Parramatta MP Ross Cameron made clear the Government�s superannuation sweetener wasn�t really about gay couples:
CAMERON: In relation to superannuation, the provision is not specifically directed towards same-sex couples. It relates to a concept of interdependence which will specifically benefit for example carers of children with profound disabilities or even perhaps members – elderly sisters who may live together in an interdependent relationship.
PLIBERSEK: You wouldn’t want to accidentally do anything good for same-sex couples, god forbid.
Within the ALP, Plibersek was part of the vocal opposition to the Government’s marriage amendment, and while the Party rejected the proposal of banning overseas adoption rights for same sex couples, in the end, it lent its support to Howard on the marriage reforms.
“Labor has made clear that we don’t support gay marriage,” Shadow Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said as the Party’s immediate response, but shortly after her statement generated media coverage, she sent an email to Labor colleagues:
Despite the extensive reporting that Labor has declared its support for the Government’s Bill, caucus and staff should note that at no time has such a commitment been made by me. My doorstop yesterday expressly indicated that this Bill must go through the usual caucus process prior to stating our formal position. I have indicated, consistent with past statements, that we would not support same sex marriage. I have also confirmed Labor’s position that we intend to remove all other forms of discrimination against same sex couples. Naturally, Shadow Cabinet and caucus will examine the Bill to see if it is consistent with this and with our platform.
Roxon’s �consistent with past statements� comment may have been in reference to the stifled debate on gay rights at the ALP’s National Conference early this year. As website Crikey reported on February 3, the debate never even properly made it to the floor:
News from the ALP Conference floor, or its back room, is that the first ever attempt by the ALP’s new gay and lesbian sub-group (Rainbow Labor), was defeated by the God botherers before anyone had time to reflect or genuflect. Rainbow Labor (which has apparently been boasting in the gay press about it’s power and influence with the Latham regime), had circulated a rather benign motion before the Conference and which called on the ALP to support same-sex relationships under Commonwealth law. Hardly revolutionary stuff, and something on which Latham has already indicated support.
But the ALP’s resident homophobe and Vatican virtuoso, Joe De Bruen (Shoppies Union), was having none of that! Sweeping around the conference floor like a bat wind, Joe foamed at the mouth and put the fear of God into anyone who would listen, telling them that the motion was all about (SHOCK! HORROR!) – “gay marriage.” It wasn’t, but enough ALP delegates and minders were intimidated enough by the Catholic mafia to put the thumbscrews on the queer lobby, which then meekly withdrew the motion and shied away from a fight with the bible bruvvers. Catholic Right – 1, Rainbow Labor – Nil.
During the IVF debate, Joe de Bruyn�s conservative Catholic views earned him the label of the �Dutchman who doesn�t like dykes� courtesy of Gough Whitlam. The Shoppies Union represents the single most powerful voting union bloc at ALP conferences. The Union is considered extremely right-wing, particularly when it comes to voting on social policies.
It was largely the Party’s dwindling lefties, and inner-city members, who were most vocal against the marriage amendment. As Victoria and Tasmania gay community newspaper MCV reported on June 25, according to a �federal parliamentary analysis� of 2001 census figures, four federal seats, all held by Labor, contain the biggest concentration of gay couples.
According to the research, seats held by Tanya Plibersek (Sydney) and Anthony Albanese (Grayndler), contain nearly one fifth of Australia�s �declared� gay couples, while the seats of Melbourne (Lindsay Tanner) and Melbourne Ports (Michael Danby) also register significant numbers of same sex couples.
And it was these four members who spoke out against the issue during the caucus meeting.
Plibersek argued the common law definition of marriage was adequate and as such, the legislation unnecessary. Tanner called for the ALP to introduce civil unions for same sex couples, but with no success.
Labor Senator Penny Wong, who outed herself as a lesbian, compared the legislation to defunct inter-racial marriage legislation in the United States. While many heralded Wong’s caucus “outing” as brave, she supported the Party line on gay marriage. Others who spoke out included ALP President Carmen Lawrence, and Michelle O’Byrne. The end result was the ALP would oppose the adoption amendment, support the Government on the marriage amendment, but refer the Bill to a Senate Committee. Like the Government’s stance, there was a bittersweet response from the gay and lesbian community.
“Obviously we are bitterly disappointed that Labor did not oppose entrenching discrimination in the Marriage Act, but we believe that once a Senate inquiry has raised awareness of the issues at stake, support for full legal equality will inevitably grow,” Rodney Croome told the Sydney Star Observer.
The ALP’s “sweetener” was that it would conduct an audit of all federal legislation when in Government. While commendable, it was nothing new – flashback to the ALP’s National Conference where the audit was first mooted.
John Howard referred to Labor’s response as trying to have “two bob each way”. The same could be said about the Government with the superannuation reforms. And both Ruddock and Roxon took similar lines – they both had parties providing �practical� reforms to the gay and lesbian community – flashback to the Howard Government�s �practical reconciliation� approach.
Ruddock and Roxon were interviewed by Melbourne’s Gay and Lesbian radio station JOYFM’s Damien Nicholas shortly after the amendment was announced. Roxon continually tried to diffuse the issue, telling Nicholas “it is a bit silly for us to get too hot under the collar or too excited about something which is actually not taking away people’s rights”.
True, but when you don’t have such rights, you are still being denied them. Writing in such legislation would make it absolutely clear that both the Government and Opposition do not equate gay relationships to the same status as heterosexual relationships. Put simply, the proposed legislation is discriminatory.
While Roxon seemed on the defensive, Ruddock was more relaxed during his JOYFM interview. Nicholas posed a rare question to the Minister:
Nicholas: How have your gay friends reacted to this news?
Ruddock: Well, some have said they think it’s targeting them and I assure them that it’s not, but others don’t necessarily put the same weight on it. Some do, some don’t.
This flies in the face of the argument that gay Australians are not interested in gay marriage. As Ruddock rightly suggested, some are, some are not. Most, however, would agree that they want the same rights as heterosexual couples.
The Marriage Bill’s debate in the House of Representatives on June 17 was filled with hate and hope. What was particularly curious was the passionate speeches from some Labor members, who sounded like they vehemently opposed the legislation, until the pinch of reality of voting in support of the Government’s amendment set in at the end of the debate.
After the Liberal Member for Patterson Bob Baldwin quoted biblical passages in support of the Bill, Labor’s Carmen Lawrence provided a lesson on the wider history of marriage, one that went beyond Nicola Roxon�s remarks that Australia’s history of marriage was a “heterosexual institution”. People who rabbit on about the ‘history of marriage’ should be careful. It was only a couple of decades ago, when it became illegal for husbands to rape their wives. Family violence and rape, is hardly a “history” of marriage the Shadow Attorney General would be advocating. As Lawrence explained:
Indeed, if you go back through the history of marriage as an institution you will find�I think this is correct; I have not been able to fully check it, but the research seems adequate�that between the fifth and the 14th centuries, for instance, the Roman Catholic Church conducted special ceremonies to bless same-sex unions which were almost identical to those they used to bless heterosexual unions at the time. At the very least these were spiritual if not sexual unions�it is not altogether clear�but there existed a form of ritual even within the Catholic Church.
Along with debunking the notion marriage was necessarily tied to religious doctrine in Australian society, Lawrence questioned the Government’s motives with introducing the provision without community debate:
No matter how you look at the proposals that this legislation embodies, they have a nasty political whiff about them, because the Howard government has shown itself capable on many occasions of pulling out an issue that it regards as likely to divide the community and to result in the expression of certain prejudices for its own political advantage. You have to ask: why are we debating this right now? This government has been in office since 1996. It has had many opportunities to open up this question to the wider community.
Lawrence then touched on Howard’s ‘axis of evil’ and the ‘Let’s-Attack-A-Minority-Group-Electoral Wheel of Fortune’ strategy:
I have no difficulty at all in seeing this as just another form of �divide and conquer�. You sow seeds of bias, prejudice and discrimination out in the community, just scatter them around a bit, and then allow them to grow for your political benefit. It is a very nasty tactic. I have seen this government do it with Indigenous people. It has tried it before with lesbian couples in relation to the IVF debate. It has done it with asylum seekers. In my view, history will judge this Prime Minister very harshly for having implemented this strategy so comprehensively and so often in Australian political life since 1996.
Lawrence’s speech came under immediate attack due to her Party’s support of the amendment. Pat Farmer, former ultra-marathon runner turned Liberal questioned the ALP’s approach to the amendments:
I believe that as elected representatives we should stand up for those people and for what they believe in. But those opposite agree with one side of politics and then leave it up to the Senate to come up with a different answer because they do not have the spine to stand up for what they should truly represent in this place.
The independent member for Calare Peter Andren took a similar line to the ALP by supporting the Government’s marriage amendment on the grounds it reflected the legal definition, but he questioned the Government’s notion same sex marriages would erode the “institution of marriage” and indeed, Howard’s ‘survival of the species’ purpose of marriage. It’s a valid argument, as how can allowing more people to embrace a concept destroy it? As Andren said:
As far as I can see, if this place were to allow same-sex marriages, the end result would have no effect on the incidence of heterosexual marriages and heterosexual couples willing to contribute to the survival of the species.
Andren was harsher on the Government’s adoption amendment, explaining how the bulk of the states already don’t provide such rights for same-sex couples anyway. He also explained the loophole in the adoption legislation:
This policy is full of holes. Even in those states and territories where same-sex couples are banned from adopting, there remains an indirect mechanism for a same-sex couple to adopt, as most allow single persons to adopt�albeit in special circumstances. One partner of a same-sex couple could well take this approach. However rare a successful adoption in these circumstances may be, the opportunity legally remains. This is policy on the run, and the government is scraping the bottom of its wedge politics barrel.
Another MP who spoke passionately on the adoption element of the Bill was Labor’s Tanya Plibersek. Plibersek was scathing of the Government, and the tone of her speech suggested her own Party�s stance may have not sat well with the Member for Sydney. Plibersek spoke of the inevitability of legally acknowledging same sex relationships:
Some time in the not too distant future, there will be formal recognition of same-sex couples, and the sky will not fall in, and we will not be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah, and life will continue. The main difference will be fewer violent or abusive attacks on gay men and lesbians, and fewer teenagers suiciding, because they will not be taught to feel shame about their sexuality as many are now.
Plibersek questioned the authority of politicians, who spend many nights away from their families, as being in a position to dictate the nature of families in legislation. She also praised the parenting abilities of same-sex couples:
I have to say that the same-sex parents I know are often more thoughtful, dedicated parents than the average parent. They have made a clearer, more considered decision to have a child�there are no unwanted pregnancies in lesbian relationships.
Indeed. Despite supporting the Government’s amendment, Plibersek’s speech was in stark contrast to Costello clone Anthony Smith’s, who equated society’s success to heterosexuality:
Marriage is between a man and a woman. It is the bedrock of our society, it is a fundamental reason for the success of our society and it will be a fundamental ingredient to the future success of our country and the wider society in the years ahead. In passing this amending bill, the parliament is doing precisely what it should be doing.
The Greens� Michael Organ Cutting countered Smith�s notion of who contributes to a successful society:
The contribution of gay and lesbian people to our community has been enormous. Despite this, we still seem to be determined to discriminate. Some are willing to give in to the rantings and ravings of homophobes. For centuries many gay and lesbian people have been forced to hide their sexuality through fear of discrimination. Let us make no mistake: this legislation sets their cause backward� back to the fifties, I would suggest, a time period that the Prime Minister is obviously very comfortable with.
I believe that acknowledgment and acceptance of the legitimacy of gay and lesbian people and of their love is inevitable; the community is very much supportive of that. But the government and opposition are today making that journey that much harder.
Organ referred to the Marriage Bill debate of 1961, and how a Country Party Senator tried to introduce an amendment dictating marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The last amendment was put to the vote and defeated by 40 votes to eight. While it can be argued that for the purposes of Australian law �marriage� does not include unions between persons of the same sex, it is also true that our understanding of who can contract a valid marriage under Australian domestic law is changing.
Liberal MP Alby Shultz then joined the Government�s chorus in support of the Bill and in doing so provided a potential “pollie waffle” joke for 2004 when referring to the Government’s relationship with the predominantly conservative Murdoch broadsheet:
Those of us on this side of the House know that The Australian is not a print media outlet that has any great love for the government.
Shultz quoted The Oz’s editorial �Gay Marriage not needed’, which oh-so-sensitively suggested gay people who wish for the right to get married “should get over it”. He also provided the precursor to Ruddock’s argument by justifying discrimination against gays as really fighting discrimination against heterosexuals:
Each of us should have the opportunity to participate in our community and to experience the benefits and accept the responsibilities that flow from such participation without fear of discrimination. It is clearly in the best interests of children for them to have, all other things being equal – as the Prime Minister has said on numerous occasions – the care and affection of both a mother and a father.
Shultz also took issue with the Greens Michael Organ�s defence of gay rights:
I take very strong exception to people coming into this place and making loud noises about minority groups.
Gawd forbid. Attorney-General Philip Ruddock rejected the idea these amendments were about wedge politics. Instead, the urgency to introduce such provisions was in response to pending legal challenges by same sex couples who had married overseas. In some respects, this whole debate is another instance of the Howard Government’s attack on the judiciary.
When questioned by the Shadow Attorney-General Nicola Roxon about the number of such cases, Ruddock responded:
A number of them. I understand there are as many as five. They have been reported in the press, so the information is as much available to the member for Gellibrand as it is to me. The fact is that in the government�s view, with those proceedings afoot seeking a declaration of validity, this is not a matter in which the government should abdicate its proper leadership role in relation to families.
In defence of the Government’s adoption amendment, Ruddock wheeled out the �genuine� couples argument:
It is ensuring that priority will be accorded for genuine couples, a male and a female, and that same-sex couples would not be proposed as suitable under the scheme which permits overseas adoptions.
Ruddock took the point further while arguing against Labor’s proposed audit of federal legislation, openly suggesting there were instances of sexuality based discrimination that should remain in place:
In relation to an audit of all Commonwealth legislation and a statement that, regardless of what that audit might discover, measures that are discriminatory on the basis of sexuality might be removed, the only comment I would make is that there may be for some reasons in some parts of Commonwealth legislation valid differences that some might want to maintain. Ruddock also made clear that for him the matter was an immigration issue, wheeling out the ol’ ‘we will decide’ argument:
The Commonwealth legislates on who does or does not get a visa to enter Australia. Under inter-country adoption arrangements, where the proposers for adoption are a same-sex couple a visa for a child to enter Australia will not be granted.
Roxon’s main beef with the Government was on adoption. Throughout this debate (and outside of parliament), Ruddock stressed the Opposition’s stance on adoption rights for same sex couples was prioritising these rights over heterosexual couples. Roxon rejected this:
To suggest that we are seeking to prioritise same-sex couples is totally wrong and totally inappropriate. What we are saying is that your government, Attorney, is trying to interfere to say that they should never be on the list. We all know that no overseas country at this point in time recognises or allows adoption to same-sex couples. We know that most of the states in Australia do not permit it. But we do not think it is necessary for the federal government to intervene in the way that it is simply to make its point about its view of what a family should look like and what it thinks is always in the best interests of the child.
We do not believe that, if a child is in traumatic circumstances, if they are living in poverty or if they have been involved in a country which is war torn or has some other civil disruption, there will never been a good home for them here in Australia with a same-sex couple.
Gawd forbid same sex couples should have access to adopting babies from less traumatic situations. Circumstances aside, the Bill made its way to the Senate, where the focus shifted on a Committee reporting date for the Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill 2004.
There were six matters the Committee was asked to investigate:
(1) The legal interpretation of the marriage power in the Constitution, and the extent of this power with regard to the creation of marriage law and the recognition of foreign marriages;
(2) Whether the Bill raises international comity issues, or inconsistency with laws, policies and standards of domestic and overseas jurisdictions;
(3) Whether the Bill breaches international instruments including the Hague Convention and human rights mechanisms prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation;
(4) Whether the Treaties relied upon in Schedule  of the Bill provide the Commonwealth with the necessary power to act, and how this action interferes with state and territory responsibilities to legislate for and to run adoption processes;
(5) the consequences of the Bill becoming law, and those remaining avenues available to the Commonwealth for legally recognising inter-personal relationships including same-sex relationships;
(6) The government�s insistence that this Bill be introduced as a matter of urgency when there has been no demonstrated reason for its urgent introduction and no community consultation on the provisions of the Bill.
Democrats Senator Brian Greig led the charge, requesting a Committee Reporting date (through the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee) of October 7. He said one of the Democrats main reasons for an Inquiry process was to avoid gay and lesbian people and their families “being used as punching bags for the purposes of an election campaign”:
These are very serious issues. These are issues of relationships that affect people immediately and personally. These are issues of children and family that affect people immediately and personally. The polarised and volatile environment of an election campaign is not the place to properly discuss, debate and resolve such issues.
Senator Greig also rejected the notion that this legislation needed to be urgently implemented:
An argument has been presented by some religious commentators and conservative politicians that there is urgency in this, that there is a crisis within marriage and the parliament must move swiftly. We argue that that is a nonsense and point out that civil marriage has been available in Canada for exactly one year this month. So the government has known for one year that it was obvious that test cases were going to be taken in Australia. Why then has it been raised at the eleventh hour? We are arguing that has been done for cynical political and election campaign reasons and must not be pandered to.
The Government’s insistence that the reporting date be changed to August confirmed Democrats fears that this Bill would indeed become part of an election campaign, but the Senate rejected the Government�s attempt to change the reporting date to August 5.
But within a day of the Senate deciding on an October 7 reporting date, Ruddock re-introduced the Marriage Legislation into the House of Representatives. He said he was re-introducing the Bill urgently because “there is significant community concern about the possible erosion of the institution of marriage”.
Ruddock cited cases currently seeking “recognition of offshore arrangements” as part of the urgency. It was a direct challenge for the ALP to fast-track the legislation and ignore the Senate’s pending review:
It is the government’s view that the provisions of the Marriage Act which we are seeking to enact should not be delayed and should not be the subject of Senate referral. The opposition having indicated its support for these measures should ensure�having restricted it to those matters that relate to a definition of marriage and the recognition of overseas marriages, which they say they support�that they receive a speedy passage. I invite the opposition to accede to that.
The Shadow Attorney-General Nicola Roxon appeared shocked by the move:
This is extraordinary. Not only does the Attorney want to use the processes of this House to get around procedures that have been agreed to in the Senate – which is of course something that we have come to expect from the Attorney – but it seems that the government cannot even manage the order of business in terms of the debate today.
Roxon also addressed Ruddock’s claim for the need of legislation in the face of cases before the courts:
The Attorney would have us believe, in the comments he has made, that the reason for needing to urgently press ahead with this matter is that, if we do not, there would be a major crisis in this country. This is because two applications have been filed seeking to have gay marriages recognised, but they are 99.9 per cent likely to be rejected by the courts.
I have no doubt that the Commonwealth will appear in these matters and make its views known. Frankly, I have no doubt that it is most likely that they will be rejected. It is just not credible for the Attorney to come into the House and say, ‘Unless this bill is passed, the world as we know it will come to an end.’ We are sick of dealing with an Attorney who thinks that crisis is just a way of life. He has manufactured a crisis out of this matter. There is no crisis.
Yet the ALP supported the Bill! Roxon said:
The content of the bill is something that we do not have an objection to, and obviously we will not be voting against the bill. But we object strenuously to the process which is being used.
However she warned the Government the ALP might not be so supportive in the Senate.
Greens Member Michael Organ again attacked the Government and the Opposition:
Marriage does mean, in part, the union of a man and a woman, but, as I have pointed out, in this day and age in this country, marriage is more than that. There are individual gay and lesbian couples living in loving, caring marriage relationships, asking that they not be discriminated against in the many areas that they are� for example, superannuation, entitlements, living as married couples et cetera. It is not up to this parliament to interfere there�not at all. I condemn the government for this bill and I condemn the ALP for supporting its introduction.
Organ also moved this amendment to the legislation: “Marriage means the union of (a) a woman and a woman, (b) a man and a man, or (c) a woman and a man, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”
The only minor party member of the House of Reps appealed to the Government and Opposition to consider the issue of democracy and representing all Australians:
We are here in 2004. We have come a long way since the bad old days of gay bashing and homophobic behaviour and things like that. Hopefully we have come a long way. We are an open democracy here in Australia. We should be sending a clear message to the community that discrimination against people based on their sexuality and on homophobia is not to be condoned at all. Unfortunately, this Marriage Amendment Bill does send the wrong message out there to the community. It caters to some of those homophobic attitudes in the community and it is the wrong message to be sending. But it is a message that this government seems happy to send and unfortunately it is a message that the opposition seems happy to support as well.
During the Senate’s marathon last sitting that went well into the weekend, the Ruddock amendment was defeated in favour of the already agreed Committee process.
Since then, with the opportunity of an early August election date now closed, this issue could still become an election battle ground. And with the possibility of parliament sitting again, there’s speculation Ruddock would try to introduce yet another marriage amendment to test the Opposition.
Submissions to the Senate�s Inquiry closed Friday, July 30, but late submissions can be accepted. For more information go to senatecommittee
Since the publication of Margo’s book ‘Not Happy John!’ the book�s website has sparked debate on how citizens can reclaim their democracy. One avenue, open to all citizens, is to write a submission to the Committee and actively contribute.
Unfortunately, as demonstrated in this debate, the major parties have prevented members from voting for what they truly believe in, or at least pay lip service to. Yet while the Government and Opposition have taken collective approaches in our parliament, individual members are quietly letting their views be known.
A couple of weeks ago, it was revealed Liberal Trish Worth sent a letter to constituents in her Adelaide seat airing her distaste for this legislation. According to the Adelaide Advertiser, the letter labelled the legislation “completely unnecessary and could be seen to marginalise a section of the community for no sensible reason”.
Likewise, the ALP Member for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby recently sent out (no doubt selectively) a completely gay focused newsletter.
Ideally, these members should have the courage to stand up in parliament and challenge their party lines through voting means.
Prior to this legislation being introduced, if gay marriage wasn’t an issue for gay and lesbian Australians, it is now � largely thanks to John Howard putting it on the agenda. Thanks John.