|News NetworkA New Milestone for Equality in Australia|
|By Billy Moffat (03/12/2011)||637 words|
Today over 10,000 people marched the streets of central Sydney from Hyde Park to Darling Harbour to push the idea of marriage equality in Australia. While an estimated 7 in 10 people are in favour of same-sex marriage, and there is public support from 51 individual federal representatives, the issue has to-date failed to achieve any sort of party platform, with neither major political party willing to address the issue in any significant manner.
Thousands chanted and cheered while holding up signs (as well as traffic), screaming various war cries. Some notable ones were "Hey hey, ho ho, homophobia's got to go.", "Julia Gillard ALP... we demand equality" or "Gay, straight, black or white... marriage is a civil right". As they marched through the streets of central Sydney, shoppers and commuters stood in awe at the size of the crowd, and many people broke out into spontaneous applause to show support. The message was simple and clear; "The only way to get rid of us is to introduce marriage equality".
Upon reaching Darling Harbour, music began playing and event officials started to rally the army with demands to Julia Gillard to support same-sex marriage. There were also short speeches from prominent supporters such as Kerryn Phelps - who was famously denied recognition of the marriage she attained overseas. At one point the crowd turned to the balcony of the convention centre and shouted "Julia" in a startling roar. This was then followed with a climax of "Shame Julia, Shame" repeatedly which degenerated into a mixture of every other chant that had been occurring with thunderous applause. Quite understandably, no MP came outside.
Since The Netherlands pioneered the legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2001, there have been twelve other nation-states worldwide that have followed suit in either part of all of the country. It is currently being debated or discussed in ten different countries, with the UK stating they would introduce same-sex civil marriage by 2015.
Unlike the US, marriage in Australia is a federal issue as outlined in the division of powers in the Constitution. This means that states are unable to pass laws affecting same-sex marriage. In 2004, then Prime Minister John Howard amended the Marriage Act to explicitly define the union as being between a man and a woman. Last week, Queensland - following the ACT - introduced the ability for same-sex couples to enter civil unions - seen as a small improvement over de-facto relationships that have so far been the only option for many.
A Galaxy Poll in October 2010 measuring the opinions of 1050 Australians of voting age found that 62% are in favour of same-sex marriage with 33% opposed and 5% undecided. This also found that 81% of people intending to vote for the Australian Greens were in favour. 78% supported a conscience vote, with 16% opposed and 6% undecided.
Next year, the Federal Government will vote on a bill to allow same-sex marriage. This will come from a private members bill from MP Stephen Jones after the summer recess. Labor today amended its official policy platform to advocate same-sex marriage, but the party will be allowed a conscience vote on the issue in the federal parliament. Opposition leader Tony Abbot has stated explicitly that there will be no conscience vote.
All in all, today has been a good day for freedom, equality and civil rights. 10,000 people marching managed to affect the government's official party policy, and I'm glad to have been a part of it. There are photos below.
|Billy Moffat 2006-2012, All Rights Reserved|
View Desktop Site