“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.