Part-way there on marriage equality

December 3, 2011 at 10:30 pm Leave a comment

Those in the ALP and general community in favour of marriage equality (making gay marriage legal) had one win and one loss yesterday at the ALP Conference. So resounding was the vote in favour of changing Labor’s platform to support gay marriage  that it was carried ‘on the voices’ and no ballot was necessary. This is a great step forward, and a defeat of leader Julia Gillard’s much-publicised view.

However, she and her supporters held sway on a ‘conscience’ vote in parliament, which still means that  it is extremely unlikely that the change to the marriage act will go through in 2012. Put simply, unless the Liberal Party also allows a conscience vote (and that looks unlikely) or even more unlikely, Tony Abbott requires MPs to vote in favour, the numbers are just not there in the case of a vote in the lower house.

So, has the heated debate and marches and lobbying been worth the considerable effort expended thus far?

I would argue “Yes”. We know that significant change in community attitudes and behaviour tends to take a generation to come about,  and often raising general awareness is one part of the process. Another element in bringing about change is that rather nebulous process of tending to change our  thinking to match what others think. If it seems that society thinks it is right to wear seat belts, then perhaps I should wear a seat belt.  If advertisements and news tell me more people are giving up smoking because it is dangerous – and uncool – then I will at least think about giving up. In this case, there has been an intense public campaign to support it; surveys have shown up to 85% support for gay marriage, and now the Labor Party supports a change to the marriage act to legalise it.  These factors are a positive part of the cultural change required.  Cracking the Liberal nut could prove more difficult…

Entry filed under: Politics and Government.

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