In recent years thousands of young people have taken to the streets demanding an end to the ban on same-sex marriage. But despite these protests same-sex marriage is still illegal in Australia. Politicians from both the major parties cynically continue to ignore majority opinion and court the conservative vote.
There is however a distinct feeling amongst activists that it is possible to win same-sex marriage rights. This optimism occasionally gives rise to the mistaken impression that LGBTI people simply have to wait for legislative change, that eventually politicians will see anti-homophobic reason. This is far from the truth. The only way to ensure a victory will be by escalating the campaign.
Even after legislative change equal rights will be far from set in stone. For example the Baillieu government in Victoria forced through a bill last month exempting faith-based employers from equal opportunity laws. Certain employers can now legitimately fire or refuse to hire someone for being gay. This exemption will affect many community sector workers and unfairly target queer women.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) also has an exemption from the Disability Discrimination Act that is still being used to deny HIV-positive people citizenship in Australia. These examples prove that even when rights are written into law they can be just as easily suspended.
The Victorian Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews responded to the Baillieu government’s partial suspension of the Equal Opportunity Act by saying that “no government has a mandate to discriminate.” This is despite the fact that the Labor Party opposes same-sex marriage. Labor heavyweight Joe de Bruyn – the head of the right-wing shop workers union – even went as far as to say that if gay marriage was allowed Australia would risk civilisational collapse!
The Coalition, despite their repulsive opposition to same-sex marriage, recently put Queensland MP Warren Entsch at the head of a Parliamentary Friendship Group for LGBTI people. Entsch described the group as “an important step in recognising the divide that exists between policy makers and the LGBTI community. For the first time, Members and Senators will have direct access to information regarding social, legal and health issues.”
While there is certainly a divide between politicians and ordinary people, politicians have never lacked ‘direct access’ to LGBTI people who live in every community and every electorate. Instead politicians have consistently played electoral games with LGBTI rights and used ‘divide and rule’ tactics to maintain their power over the system.
The reason same-sex marriage is opposed by the big business parties is that it undermines ‘traditional’ relationships. The ‘nuclear family’ is the cornerstone of the system that puts profits before all else. Maintaining structures like the nuclear family means that many of societies’ jobs like caring for children, the sick and the aged are the burden of the family and not the state.
Gains like free healthcare, childcare and equal rights are never given, they have to be won. Unfortunately all rights under the current system are temporary. The only way to maintain equal rights long term is to change the system.
That is why the Socialist Party links the fight for same-sex marriage rights to other reforms but most importantly to the need to change society. The only way to do away with discrimination and oppression once and for all is to struggle for a socialist society that is based on people’s needs and not profits. That way equality could be guaranteed alongside a much better standard of living for all.
By SP reporters