Aug30

Let's not blow it by rushing marriage equality

CREATED ON // Saturday, 30 August 2014 Written by // Rodney Croome

The Australian public has made up its mind in favour of marriage equality. Not so, our politicians.

There is still a large bloc of federal representatives, mostly Liberals and mostly in the Lower House, who are undecided or undeclared on the issue.

This is partly because, in the absence of a Coalition conscience vote, they haven't had to think much about how they will vote.

It is also because for the first year of the Abbott Government their focus has been on the Coalition's high priories, like repealing the carbon tax and passing Joe Hockey's first budget.

All this will begin to change once the current budget impasse is resolved, and when the Coalition party room grants itself a free vote, as most people think it will.

But even with these road blocks removed it will be imperative for parliament not rush headlong to a vote.

MPs who are only just beginning to think about marriage equality need time to listen to the personal stories of constituents, assimilate studies showing the positive impact of marriage equality overseas and absorb polling showing they have nothing to fear electorally.

Australia may only have one shot at marriage equality under this government so we have to get it right.

We have to be sure we have done all we can to secure every last vote, especially if the numbers are close, as they are likely to be in the Senate.

A good example of what not to do comes from 2012 when marriage equality bills in both houses were rushed without warning to a premature vote, despite there being no chance of success.

I assume the intention was to get marriage equality off the political agenda.

Fortunately, the resiliency of the issue, based in turn on the passion of supporters, foiled that plan.

The granting of a Coalition conscience vote will be a momentous step forward, well worth celebrating.

But it will only be the beginning of a new phase in the marriage equality debate, one in which undeclared and undecided MPs are allowed to grow comfortable with the reform.

That phase must be as long as necessary to ensure parliament finally does what the people want.

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Rodney Croome

Rodney Croome

Rodney Croome is the Campaign Co-ordinator of the Tasmanian gay and Lesbian Rights Group and the National Convener of Australian Marriage Equality. Visit his blog at rodneycroome.id.au.

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