Let The Games Begin! #MarriageEquality4Christmas

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“We shouldn’t be frightened about celebrating the love of one person for another.” pic: Eva Rinaldi

The best hope of a Liberal conscience vote on #MarriageEquality4Christmas is a shock jock, not a pollie.

Hopes that the Coalition might start behaving sensibly any time soon on marriage equality were dashed when one of our best supporters in the Liberal party decided to play snarky party politics with the issue. Warren Entsch told the ABCs AM

This has got nothing to do with marriage equality. This is, you know, this is purely about Bill. This is Bill trying to get himself a headline, trying to build up some relevance.

I mean, we’ve been quietly working on this to get some sort of, get a orderly bi-partisan arrangement. What he’s trying to do there is purely partisan and I think people look at it very cynically, look at it exactly what it is. And it’s just about Bill trying to get himself a headline.

Whilst I am of course duly grateful for Warren’s quiet but, to date, totally ineffective slow and quiet manoeuvering in the shadows, all it has achieved so far is to delay, rather than progress, the issue.He described the process to the Sydney Morning Herald

“I spoke to the Prime Minister this week about this, in light of the Irish referendum and we have been working on a time frame. We had made a decision to do something this year. He said to me ‘talk to like-minded individuals, come back and have a yarn to me and we will see where we go with it’.

This is the ‘progress’ that Shorten’s move has ‘wrecked’? A vague commitment to ‘have a yarn’ about it? This looks more like going through the motions in an attempt to shut up LGBTI Liberals (yes there are still one or two, though they’re increasingly despairing), than actually working for an outcome.

A true bipartisan would see the opportunity to press his case with some vigour. He would be on the phone to Shorten, Hanson-Young and Leyonhjelm, asking how he could help get this through. Instead Entsch resorted to the usual tribal spear-rattling. Stop it, Warren, wipe off the warpaint, and give them a group hug, Warren. Save your spear for your intransigent PM.

Entsch was backed by another alleged Coalition ally, Wyatt Roy, who also betrayed an unhelpful partisan attitude, branding Shortens move ‘shameless politics’.

Entsch didn’t need to bag Shorten. His move has done him no favours with the public, especially the gay voters. By waiting until, once again, the Greens took the lead, and then leaping in to try to steal the issue, he is also playing at tribal warfare. See my remarks above re group hugs.

He has to do much more. Labor has a long and proud history of fobbing us off with less that full rights and equality. Writing on Facebook, one Josh Wyndham-Kidd said:

This is the same Labor Party that supports the laws that say that queer kids can be expelled, teachers fired, cleaners paid less etc. by religious schools. When Labor looked at federal laws on discrimination in 2012, they decided that the right to expel queer kids from school was worth protecting. They did the same thing in NSW. Because that’s a right that’s really important.

Labor, being unable to walk and chew gay gum at the same time, has long held to a policy of only one pro-LGBTI reform per government. Their plan is (or was) to do nothing now, before making it their sole pro-LGBTI reform during their next term of office.

Shorten’s move also looks like an attempt to delay marriage equality (in this case until he can grab the credit for it), rather than a serious effort to get #MarriageEquality4Christmas. Heaven forbid that the Greens, who are the only steadfast friends we have (since the demise of the Democrats), should actually get the credit for the work they have put in.

The same group hug advice applies: Bill, stop using us as a political football, call Warren, Sarah and David, and work out how to get #MarriageEquality4Christmas. It can, and should, be done.

The starting gun was fired by The Irish referendum, and first out of the blocks was Greens Sarah Hanson-Young. She called for a cross-party meeting to discuss a way forward.

‘The Australian Greens are calling for a cross-party meeting to be held on Monday to discuss strategies that will ensure that marriage equality is secured for all Australians,’ Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said in a statement.

But even she couldn’t resist a bit of partisan sniping.

Hanson-Young said Abbott “continues to be lost in a time warp as Bill Shorten follows the Greens’ lead in bringing the marriage equality debate to the forefront of Australian politics.

“Wonderful to see more MP’s pushing for marriage equality. We don’t actually need more bills in the parliament, but we do need more votes.”

A surprising ally came out of the woodwork, however, to provide what may be the best opportunity to soften Abbott’s opposition to a conscience vote and raise the chances of #MarriageEquality4Christmas. Close friend of the PM, radio shock jock Alan Jones said today on his radio show:

“It is 2015… on this issue we must respect the views of others,” he began. “The reality is this: In a very difficult world, which is often impersonal, uncaring, ruthless and sometimes brutal in personal relationships, love can prove elusive. My view is that when people find love, they should be able to celebrate it. And they shouldn’t be discriminated against according to the nature of that love. To deny people the recognition for a relationship which is based on love is to deny, in my opinion, one of humankind’s most basic, elusive qualities. We shouldn’t be frightened about celebrating the love of one person for another.”

I do hope Mr Abbott was listening. And I hope Alan Jones continues to press him to grant that conscience vote. Maybe even to drop his own opposition to equal marriage. In the meantime, perhaps he should ‘have a yarn’ with Warren Entsch and teach him a few things about supporting gay rights. He could use the lesson.

And what of Tony Abbott? He said:

If our Parliament were to make a big decision on a matter such as this, it ought to be owned by the Parliament and not by any particular party.

Looks like a conscience vote just took a step nearer.

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. And now he's been nominated for LGBTI Journalist of the Year 2017, which is great news, as he hasn't won any of these things for years! If you want to nominate him too - the more the merrier - you can do it here http://www.australianlgbtiawards.com.au/public-nominations.html"Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)