Update: Australian Labor Party votes to add marriage equality to its platform

“Surely Australia has reached a point where we can value relationships by markers such a respect, commitment and love.”

That’s Australian Finance Minister Penny Wong, who is openly gay, in her remarks to the Australian Labor Party conference this past weekend.

Last week I posted a video that was made by the Australian political action group GetUp, in which Australians were urged to sign a petition indicating their support for same sex marriage rights. The timing of the video was significant: this past weekend, the Australian Labor Party, the party of the Prime Minister, held its annual conference, at which same sex marriage was one of the issues up for debate.

It appears that GetUp succeeded in harnessing public opinion to put political pressure on the ALP. More than 140, 000 Australians signed the petition urging the Labor government to amend the Commonwealth Marriage Act. And at the conference, the party voted to change its platform to support same sex marriage rights.

However, the change in platform doesn’t mean a change in the law. The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is still not in favour of same sex marriage, and because of Labor’s razor thin majority, it is unlikely that a marriage equality bill would pass in Parliament.

Still, Australian gay rights advocates are cheered by the platform change.

“The momentum toward achieving marriage equality is unstoppable,” the Australian Marriage Equality national convener Alex Greenwich said. “A major obstacle to reform has been removed and we are prepared to face the new challenge we have been given of achieving reform with a Labor conscience vote.”

I’m disappointed by Gillard’s position, to say the least. I had hoped that all the social conservative tut-tut-ing and media scrutiny of her own relationship, which is non-traditional in that she’s not married to her partner, would have imbued her with some empathy for people in other non-traditional arrangements, but I was wrong. Gillard is out of step with the 62% of Australians who support same sex marriage – and she’s certainly out of step with this proud Australian.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/toongrrl/ toongrrl

    Go Australia!

  • http://feministing.com/members/tariq/ daria

    i think to say that australias gay rights activists are cheered by this is an exaggeration. yes the labour party now supports same sex marriage but (and this is a huge but) they also voted in a conscience vote and this is unmistakably a defeat. it is both a defeat in the sense that this will now undoubtedly not pass through the house of reps and a moral defeat. her party voted for the vote to avoid embarrassing gillard. the very idea of gillard & co sitting around debating whether or not we should have access to our inalienable human rights is vile. you noted also that she is out of touch with the majority of australians and yeah that is indicative of the state of democracy in this country i guess. though i really don’t care how many people want marriage equality- the job of the government is to ensure we have full access to our rights if they don’t infringe on others and to ensure no group in society is subject to vilification and the government has failed on all counts. i’d kinda hoped that she would have some empathy too based on her relationship status and public response to it but i’m naive i guess.
    as a side note i think the role of penny wong should also be made clear. up until recently she did not think marriage equality should be granted at all. and while get up did manage to get a lot of people to sign their petition which is great i think more than anything what changed public opinion was the tireless campaigning on the ground by the likes of groups such as equal love and community action against homophobia. they’re the ones who’ve organised the rallies for marriage equality including the national convergence on saturday outside the conference(which was pure awesome-ness btw. i mean 5000 people according to abc, 12000 acording to skynews and the counter counter rally was decent too). CAAHs co-convenor, Cat Rose also wrote a great piece on the conscience vote which made its way into a bunch of different papers in universities and the queer press at least.
    http://www.sa.org.au/index.php option=com_k2&view=item&id=7057:conscience-vote-would-be-a-backward-step-for-marriage-campaign&Itemid=544
    as equal love and community action against homophobia. they’re the ones who’ve organised the rallies for marriage equality including the national convergence on saturday outside the conference(which was pure awesome-ness btw. i mean 5000 people according to abc, 12000 acording to skynews). if you were there you might have noticed rainbow labour speakers come up give their 2cents- that wasnt intended, they hijacked it. CAAHs co-convenor, Cat Rose also wrote a great piece on the concience vote which made it’s way into a bunch of different papers in universities and the queer press at least.
    http://www.sa.org.au/index.php option=com_k2&view=item&id=7057:conscience-vote-would-be-a-backward-step-for-marriage-campaign&Itemid=544

  • http://feministing.com/members/lintilla/ Dina

    Something not mentioned here – Labor has called a conscience vote, which means that MPs can vote however they’d like on this one instead of having to follow the platform. Which means that number dwindles further.