Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Civil Unions for same-sex couples now!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Socialist Party members attended the National Day of action for same-sex equality in Melbourne on Sunday. The 12th of August commemorated the black Friday of 2004 when the Howard government amended the Marriage Act to deny gay and lesbian couples marriage rights.

Across the country thousands mobilised to demand the government repeals the ban. The Melbourne demonstration was well attended with over a thousand people taking to the streets demanding full equality and rights for LGBTI people.

Speakers at the rally noted that because of this movement same-sex equality is now firmly on the political agenda. The Relationship Register is set to come into place in Victoria by the end of the year.

Howard’s proposed discriminatory leglislation that would ban same-sex overseas adoption was also condemned at the rally. It seems that John Howard is now totally out tune with the mood in society. Whilst he has tried to whip up homophobia and fear against same-sex parents, the reality is that he and his big business mates are the minority. A recent galaxy poll found an overwhelming majority, over 70%, of the Australian community support full equality for gay and lesbian couples.

The rally marched with red balloons and colourful banners to Federation Square, chanting “Ho ho, Ho ho, homophobia has got to go”. As the rally organisers highlighted, there is still a long way go to recognise same-sex relationship equality in Australia but this rally was a good step forward for the movement.

Socialist Party members distributed over 200 of our leaflets titled: No to Discrimination: Civil Unions for same-sex couples now!

By Kylie McGregor


No to Discrimination! Civil Unions for same-sex couples now!

After many years of campaigning for the rights of LGBTI people, there is still a long way to go for the community to achieve some of the recognition of heterosexual couples. Australia is the only country to have banned same-sex marriage and this ban runs contrary to other Western nations which have legalised same-sex marriage such as Belgium, Netherlands, and Spain. The Howard Government continues to stand strong on its conservative ‘nuclear family’ stance and believes that a marriage or union should only be made between a male and a female.

In 2006, Howard overturned a decision by the ACT to allow civil unions. This appalling action only further cemented Howard’s right wing policies which have contributed to continued discrimination and prejudice, not just of LGBTI people, but of other minority groups in Australia.

Capitalist politicians are often willing to use scapegoating to divide workers and divert anger away from their own policies. What occurs for LGBTI people as are result of this is much more than just emotional pain, legal difficulties, and complications if children are involved – but also continued discrimination from those who continue to view a person’s sexuality as a choice that they have made or as something ‘different’.

LGBTI people are often faced with the choice of coming out at work and risking discrimination and harassment, or staying in the closet and telling lies about their private life. Homophobia in secondary schools continues, contributing to the high rate of suicide amongst LGBTI youth. There is alarming evidence that same-sex attracted young people are six times more likely to try to take their own life than for the population as a whole, and particularly for young men in country areas.

Socialists welcome the proposed reforms of the Victorian State Government to establish a registration scheme similar to that which has been operating in Tasmania (due to be introduced before the end of the year). The proposed same-sex relationship registration scheme is a success for the LGBTI movement, and the Socialist Party calls on other state governments to implement similar programs.

These registers would be a major step forward. At the same time, we must point out that legal change has lagged behind social change. The proposed Victorian state based registry would not grant any additional rights to couples but could potentially simplify many procedures under state law by providing a single piece of evidence proving the existence of a committed relationship.

Ultimately this federal ban has to be repealed and federal marriage rights implemented if we are to win full rights. Current discrimination includes, worker’s compensation, where if a person dies on the job, his or her “spouse” may be entitled to a lump sum, and payments for each dependent child. A same-sex partner, unlike a heterosexual defacto partner, does not qualify as a “spouse” and so may be left with nothing. Discrimination also continues in migration law, social security, tax and superannuation contribution rebate.

Although the right to civil unions should continue to be fought nationally, any campaign must link up with the broader struggles involved in fighting against exploitation, discrimination and violence. This would include the trade union movement, which is currently fighting Howard’s draconian Work Choices legislation and struggles against State and Territorial Labor Governments’ who continue to carry out privatisation and cuts to public services.

We fight for a socialist society run democratically for need not profit, where discrimination and prejudice are part of history, not part of our lives. Many LGBTI people face discrimination and abuse on a daily basis. Only by linking the struggle for LGBTI rights to the struggle for an equal socialist society, free from prejudice and discrimination, can true change be achieved.

The Socialist Party is fighting for:

-An end to all discrimination.
-Full rights for LGBTI couples: Repeal the federal ban on marriage rights. Recognition of same sex domestic partnerships in law on an equal level with heterosexual couples.
-An extension of domestic partnership laws to include parenting rights and the removal of all remaining instances of discrimination.
-An end to homophobic bullying in schools. For all schools to include homophobia in their anti-bullying policies, and all teachers to receive training and support at a local and national level on handling homophobic bullying and LGBTI issues in the classroom.
-The right to access marriage in federal law by same sex couples.


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