This article, co-written with Maxine Kauter, appeared in the Star Observer, as ‘State your case, don’t shout it’ on 23 September 2013, soon after the federal election.
As the news and the hangover sank in on Sunday 8th September we received a Facebook invitation to attend an URGENT RALLY FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY: HELL NO TO ABBOTT’S BIGOTRY. We politely declined.
Rallies and marches are great for creating a sense of community, for bringing like-minded people together to demonstrate their passion for an issue and maybe even to call for change. But an ‘urgent’ rally after this election’s landslide reveals a worrying lack of self-reflection. There is very little logic to rabidly sharpening those placards to protest a government whose brand of bigotry is nothing but a distracted assertion that the status quo be maintained. It’s time to take a moment to think.
Let’s get serious; no political party with the ability to affect the change is falling over themselves to do it. Instead, they are starting to say things that make it sound like they would make the change if they could and we are all aglow with the promise of worthiness, like unpopular children finally allowed to play near the cool kids.
It’s a sad fact that marriage equality was not the deciding factor for Australia’s voting public. Despite more than 60% of the nation supporting equal rights, despite COUNTLESS rallies, their stance on marriage equality did not dissuade the majority of people from voting for the Coalition.
Rather than running blindly into the streets screaming, “Hell no to bigotry”, with the Socialist Alliance and a half a bucket of used, soggy chalk for an audience, we think it’s time for different strategies:
- Have a one-on-one conversation with your local member. Don’t just yell or turn the pavement outside their office into a rainbow, talk to them about why these reforms are important to you. Or maybe have a talk, then convince them to chalk a rainbow with you!
- Join a political party. Become a paid up member, attend meetings and do all you can to affect change from the ‘inside’.
- Support education about the Australian electoral system and campaign for reforms to the Senate’s preferential voting system. We now live in a country where the balance of power is held by nutters – this is NOT the will of the people. The Senate has fallen victim to dodgy preference deals and voter ignorance.
- Support charities like Twenty10, the Gay & Lesbian Counselling Service, The Benevolent Society, The Gender Centre, The Aurora Group, The Gay and Lesbian Immigration Task Force and ACON. They need all the funding they can get!
Once you’ve done all of the above, perhaps you might also consider whether or not marriage equality is the single issue you want to focus on for the next three years. This is not because it’s unworthy of pursuit, but because it has become an inadequate catch-all for the LGBTQI community. We need to stop holding it up as some symbol. Symbols are easily manipulated.
Yes, marriage equality is important, but whether it is achieved or not, there are other more difficult changes we must affect as representatives of different and varied sexualities. You say you want to be equal. In the words of Mina Loy, “Is that all you want?”
No, the Coalition won’t create a positive environment for diverse sexualities, but we doubt they’re going to reinstate the 85 discriminatory laws removed by the ALP. We predict (well, we ardently hope) that the worst the LGBTQI community can expect from the Coalition is a lack of progress. Others are not so fortunate.
If you’re an asylum seeker, if you work in the public sector, if you’re Indigenous and require legal aid, if your job affords you penalty rates, if you want action on climate change, if you live in a regional area and want any hope of high speed internet, this is a dangerous government.
If we put our energies into campaigning on these issues as well, we may have a hope of dragging Australia back to reason and, in turn, we may well see a reasonable government willing to vote, ‘Yes’, for marriage equality. This is not a time for urgently ‘Using Your Voice’, it’s a time for considering what you are saying and to whom.What this country and this cause needs now is careful, strategic planning, not rage and glitter bombs.