Monday, 26 September 2016

Deeply saddening: a failure of our political class to recognise our right to marry

Today was yet another deeply saddening day in the game of chicken being played out between the Government and the Opposition over gay marriage.

On the Government side, we have yet again a plebiscite that no one except the right wing of the Liberal Party and the Nationals wanted- foisted on the Liberal Party room by Tony Abbott. Then accepted by Malcolm Turnbull as a condition of his rise to power- and then invested as a part of the policy platform that he took to the election and won.

The plebiscite in my view would be an enormous waste of money - $200 million, or given how Governments estimate then spend our money, no doubt more- for what according to today's reports say is a shirking of the fundamental job of our Parliament- to legislate, including on controversial issues, as Parliament has done since day one, and one expects will continue to do for as long as it exists.

But worse, as all have said, the plebiscite would not be binding, and it is likely that conservatives like Eric Abetz will use every tool at their disposal to defeat the plebiscite. First the condition to fund the no side (which means both sides have to be funded- again another waste of money, as the electors of this country have pretty well made up their minds on this issue ages ago and want to move on), and then the Senate inquiry- to slow things down and kill off the plebiscite. And then if the plebiscite succeeds, then to vote against the will of the people.

I agree with John Howard. If the will of the people is to support gay marriage, then Parliament should respect the will of the people.

But when John Howard sought successfully back in 2004 to amend the Marriage Act to bring us to where we are now- to outlaw gay marriage, he didn't need to go to a plebiscite. Instead, it was just a vote of the Parliament. He persuaded the ALP Opposition, in classic wedge tactics, to agree to the amendment or be seen as being weak. No surprise- they agreed- and we are stuck where we are.

And if there is a plebiscite- there will be an outpouring of homophobic and transphobic bile that will hurt many people- all unnecessarily. It will impact all too greatly on trans people and young LGBTI people- the most vulnerable.

My husband Mitchell and I do something that is not terribly remarkable, but for which we get abuse. We hold hands in public. For that "temerity" we are subjected almost every other day to the death stare. And then we cop homophobic abuse. Words I had never dreamed of describing myself. I saw myself as being in love with my husband, not those terrible names. And that name calling will just get worse as the plebiscite campaign rolls along.

And where did we recently cop the death stare? As we were at Parliament House in Canberra, to see our local MP Trevor Evans, who is openly gay, give his maiden speech. As we walked up stairs to the entrance of Parliament House - yes we got it again- the death stare. The stare of hatred that just wants us to burn in Hell. The stare of malevolence. The stare of Medusa. All the more ironic to then hear Trevor talk in his maiden speech of his love for his partner Roger.

And on the Labor side? Knowing that Turnbull has nowhere to move, the ALP has decided not to support the plebiscite- and demand a free vote, knowing that Turnbull if he agrees to give it will no longer be Prime Minister. Instead of being the rooster, he will become in an instant the feather duster.

So where does this leave us? As Peta Credlin predicted before the election- in a likely stalemate that will last the term of this Parliament. This is deeply, deeply saddening.

Mitch and I married in the US last year. Over there and in other countries of the world our marriage is recognised. But not here. Not in our home. Here our marriage does not exist- because our politicians do not have the ability to lift above party politics and give us the reform that pollsters tell us time and time again the Australian people want- to allow the recognition of gay marriage. Our marriage is recognised in our eyes, in the law of other countries, including in the US, UK, France, South Africa, Brazil and even Colombia- but not here. Our marriage is recognised by our friends and family, and was celebrated in the presence of God. But that is not enough when the law of our homeland does not recognise our relationship.

Today a poll was released that said in every electorate there was a majority in favour of gay marriage- except one. And that one? Maranoa in outback Queensland, centred on Roma. That electorate and that electorate alone is the only one in the country against gay marriage- and by a very narrow majority. And yet even so it seems as though it will be years before our marriage and others like it will finally be recognised as is our right in our homeland.