Marriage equality: 2015 in review

Marriage equality: 2015 in review

LAST UPDATED // Monday, 28 December 2015 15:40 Written by // Rodney Croome

2015 was a year of great frustration for Australia’s marriage equality supporters but also solid gains.

Ireland achieved marriage equality through a referendum and the US through a Supreme Court decision.
Both events highlighted how far Australia is falling behind other comparable countries.
As if to rub salt into the wounds, the path the nation has been following to marriage equality for many years now – a cross-party free vote in parliament – was blocked.
After “branch stacking’ the Coalition party room, the former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, got the numbers to block a free vote and take us down the path of a plebiscite.
There are no fixed rules for plebiscites.
In the hands of the man who had helped derail Australia’s republican referendum, a plebiscite could easily have been stacked against reform.
Immediately, cross-bench marriage equality supporters in the Senate called Abbott’s bluff by introducing legislation for a fair plebiscite, making a national vote look less attractive to opponents of reform.
The elevation of Malcolm Turnbull to the premiership a few weeks later gave many people hope marriage equality was back on track.
For the first time, Australia had a Prime Minister and a Leader of the Opposition who support marriage equality.
Bill Shorten had already introduced his own marriage equality legislation, while Labor’s National Conference decided ALP members will be bound by party policy to vote for the reform by 2019.
Upping the pressure even more, a cross-party bill was introduced that was championed by Liberals like Warren Entsch and Teresa Gambaro.
But a plebiscite remained Government policy, despite unresolved questions about the immense cost of running it ($158 million), whether voting will be compulsory, how vulnerable people will be protected from hate speech and whether the result will be binding.
The Coalition’s avoidance of a free vote was deeply disappointing to those many marriage equality supporters who had worked hard over many years to get their local MP across the line.
But it was also a back-handed compliment to them.
Conservative opponents of reform only felt the need to block a free vote because the number of MPs in support was so close to a majority.
In 2015 a significant number of Liberal, National and cross-bench members declared their support, including Josh Frydenbger, Greg Hunt, Sarah Henderson, Ewan Jones, Dean Smith, Darren Chester, Nigel Scullion, Glenn Lazarus and Ricky Muir.
They were matched by a swath of Labor members from western Sydney, including Tony Burk, Chris Bowen, Ed Husic and Julie Owens.
Critical to bringing these members on board was the effective community campaigning that saw three state Liberal-dominated parliaments, several faith leaders, 50 local councils and 700 businesses declare their support for marriage equality in 2015.
Marriage equality now has slim majority support in the Senate and is only six votes short in the Lower House.
In 2016 Australian Marriage Equality will continue to build on this grassroots tide for change.
We have identified 25 MPs we believe can be persuaded to support reform and we will foster grass roots campaigns in their electorates.
Getting six of them across the line is eminently achievable given how many MPs shifted position in 2015.
Achieving majority support in parliament is important regardless of a plebiscite because a) it may convince the powers to be that a plebiscite isn’t necessary, and b) a “yes” vote in a plebiscite can’t be implemented without parliament’s say so.
As for the plebiscite itself, AME will continue to point out why one isn’t necessary, while, at the same time, organising and fundraising to ensure the result is an emphatic “yes”.
Already, we have employed a campaign manager, Erin McCallum, begun research on key messages, and brought social media and communications experts on board.
Another top priority is to explore the possibility of an agreement between key stakeholders about ground rules for a plebiscite debate.
All parties should feel free to state their case, but they also need to be aware of the impact their words can have on young LGBTI people and the children of same-sex couples.
I am heartened that an anti-discrimination case brought by transgender advocate, Martine Delaney, against a Catholic anti-equality booklet has seen the beginnings of an agreement between the parties to the case.
This gives me hope a broader agreement can be reached, and that we can turn the challenge of a plebiscite into an opportunity to reset Australia as a tolerant and inclusive nation.
Whichever path Australia takes to marriage equality, I am optimistic marriage equality is not far away, as long as we continue to work together to make it happen.


Rodney Croome

Rodney Croome

Rodney Croome is the National Director of Australian Marriage Equality.

Comments (3)

  • Maree Whitty

    01 January 2016 at 13:08 |
    There is more equality in Australia as the law stands now than there would be if this law is passed. Ss people can work where they want, live where they want, they have the same rights as married couples under Australian law now, they can rear children now. This law if passed, forces people with a different world view to comply as demonstrated by the bakers who said 'no' to a ss couple. They were fined $135,000. People have been threatened, goaled, lost their businesses etc. after this law was introduced into their countries, e.g. Canada and the USA. Children are taught that gender is 'fluid', they are able to choose their gender, they are encouraged to experiment. A 12 year old in Canada underwent a sex change surgery and was given hormone meds. There is no love nor equality in any of this. It is about forcing people to comply AGAINST THEIR FREE WILL AND CONSCIENCE with the threat of being sued, fined and/or goaled. It is a law that is being pushed hard onto the unsuspecting public who are have not had it explained or detailed to them the ramifications and consequences and the affects on our society and what conditions our children and future generations will be living under.


    • Julia

      13 January 2016 at 16:23 |
      Ah the usual anti-equality rubbish. Now let's debunk these myths:

      1. As it stand in Australia the law already makes it unlawful to refuse services to LGBT persons. Rightfully so in my opinion - permitting bakeries to refuse same sex couples would potentially segregate a groups of person from parts of the market and areas of economic and social life to the determinant of LGBT persons. The fine in imposed in the cited case, Re Klein I presume, was due the fact that those bakers not only discriminated, they also published same sex couples personal information on social media resulting in them receiving harassment and death threats. The finding against them was just. Personally I am getting sick of this bigots are victims mantra.

      2. Children are taught gender is fluid because that is the truth. Not everybody is Cisgender and some people are trains and gender non-conforming. There's nothing wrong with that. People aren't encourage to experiment medically - Treatment for gender dsyphroa is complex and heavily multi-disciplinary. No child would have been given hormone medication if they had not had the say so from several doctors and physiatrists.

      3. The line about it being against their free will and conscience is just grandstanding - yes in 2016 you are not able to discriminate against or bully LGBT couples. That is only a good thing.


    • Alan

      13 January 2016 at 10:29 |
      Ah ...the old problem of the bakers who refused to bake a cake! I didn't realize we lived in a world where bakers would only bake for people/events that they agreed with. I didn't realize that Muslims should only use Muslim bakers, That Roosters supporters should only get red white and blue cakes from Roosters supporting bakers. I didn't realize that Bakers were there only to support their own groups/causes and weren't actually working to earn an income, enjoy their craft and ply their trade. I'd better not tell my butcher that I'm Gay - he may not want to sell me meat for my next Barbie...


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