Equal rights now!
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the New York Stonewall riots. Six days of protest that shook the world and brought on the beginnings of the modern gay rights movement. This movement won gains for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people around the world. But there is still a long way to go.
In Australia today LGBTI people are denied basic rights that the rest of the community take for granted. Marriage is one such right. In their third term in office the Howard government introduced the Marriage Amendment Bill 2004 which saw marriage in Australia defined as “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.” Labor gave no opposition to the bill and same-sex marriage was officially banned both in practice and recognition.
Since then many have hoped that the election of the Rudd Labor Government would bring positive changes for LGBTI people. These changes however have proved wholly symbolic. We have seen Penny Wong, the first openly lesbian politician elected to cabinet, but support for LGBTI issues has been absent from Labor politics. Labor has continued to mimic the Howard government’s position towards LGBTI people with Rudd stating that he was opposed to same-sex marriage and that the Labor Party would continue to regard marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
Currently, decisions on marriage and adoption are largely the responsibility of state parliaments. A change to the Marriage Amendment Bill would cut through state based discrimination and highlight the normality of same-sex relationships. Yet an amendment to this bill will not come from the Labor Party.
Labor’s justification for their archaic policies is simply that the Australian people are not ready for such a change. These claims have no grounding in reality with a recent Galaxy Poll showing that 60 per cent of Australians support same sex marriage. The Rudd government’s stance on same-sex marriage is serious institutional discrimination. They are presenting backwards politics in a country where LGBTI bashings are still commonplace and the suicide rate of LGBTI youth is phenomenally higher than their heterosexual counterparts.
The Greens have introduced a private members bill calling for parliament to amend the Marriage Amendment Bill to allow for equal marriage rights between straight and same-sex couples. This bill has pushed the Labor Party to commence a senate inquiry into the issue with findings to be published later this year. However, change will not come for LGBTI people through the parliament alone. This month will begin with national protests for same-sex marriage. We need a sustained mass movement in the workplaces and schools and on the streets to push for full rights for the LGBTI community.
The Socialist Party supports same-sex marriage and calls for an end to discrimination against the LGBTI community
We are fighting for:
– National legislation on marriage and adoption allowing equal rights for same-sex couples
– An end to homophobic bullying in schools with a uniform inclusion of anti-homophobia in anti-bullying policies
– An end to discrimination in the workplace with unions, workers, and students stepping up to tackle inequality and prejudice against the LGBTI community
By Corey Snoek