Monday Marriage Blues

Right now it feels as if marriage equality in Australia is lost for the foreseeable future. But we must not lose heart. We must fight to put the issue back at the top of the Federal agenda, and keep it there until we win.

We must keep stirring for marriage, because there is NEVER a time when it is safe for the Rainbow Community to relax. Any rights we gain will only be temporary unless we are constantly on our guard (and sometimes not even then). Progress is not inevitable and can be reversed at any moment, as we have seen in Queensland. The only thing that keeps us, as a minority, from being steamrollered by the unthinking, uncaring, clumsy majority, is being tougher, smarter, out, proud and loud. But above all, persistent.

Refuse to be ignored. Refuse to be excluded. Refuse to go unnoticed. Refuse to allow yourself to be treated as anything less than a full and equal citizen at any time, by anyone. Never give up, because our opposition will never give up.

The French government is committed to introducing marriage equality. But the conservative religious mayors of several municipalities say they will refuse to hold same-sex weddings in their town halls. Churches in New Zealand are campaigning against equal marriage legislation from the pulpits. UK churches are warning of disaster if the UK legalises gay marriage:  Stephen Fry has a few words for them.

The British Conservative party grassroots are revolting against their leadership, demanding David Cameron drop the issue. And the supporters of the Australian Christian Lobby are smugly proclaiming victory against the forces of darkness, predicting a long long fight via the states. Where they are happy to fight, because they know they will win. But this is a federal issue, and that is where we must continue to force the issue.

Did you notice something?

99.9% of our problem stems from religions. The lesson is clear: it’s no good winning over politicians: we must either win over or take down our religious opponents. They are the real enemy. And overwhelmingly, it’s the Christians. Sure, there are nice Christians who stand with us. But overwhelmingly the churches are against us.

Roman Catholicism is a prime example. To believe the papers, you’d think every Catholic from the Pope to the lowliest member of the laity is implacably against us.  The same headline crops up in British, Scottish, American and Australian newspapers: Catholic Church Declares War on Gay Marriage.

Not so the ordinary Catholics in the pews. The Washington Post reports:

For all the opposition by leaders in the Catholic Church, their flock isn’t following. “Nearly six-in-ten white non- Hispanic Catholics (59%) favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry,” Pew reports, “as do 57% of Hispanic Catholics.” This shouldn’t come as too surprising. Catholics have been leading the way on same-sex marriage for some time now.

What can we do, as advocates for equal marriage? Well, we have made a start at splitting the religious, welcoming those who support us while campaigning against those who don’t. But I don’t think that’s enough.

We need to stop dividing our efforts. We need to merge Equal Love and Australian Marriage Equality into one organisation. We need to get the polite letter writers and clicktivist supporters to join the demonstrations.

Lindsay Tanner once told me, demonstrations will only sway politicians when you can reliably and regularly put 20-30,000 people on the streets in each capital in support of your cause. And he’s right. 2-3,000 may sound impressive, but it’s a fraction of what we need to be effective. Until we can multiply that by ten, stay off the streets; it only demonstrates weakness, not strength.

A new kind of marriage equality demonstration program needs to be devised and put in place. That means toning down the shrill leftist extremism that has characterised the demos till now, in favour of the suit-n-tie brigades. We need to get the middle class out there, and in numbers: and the best way to do it is for Ali Hogg and Rodney Croome to get into bed together, politically speaking, and find ways to get all those people who sit comfortably at their laptops clicking Yes to Gay Marriage, to want to stand in the street and shout.

We need to target the churches as well as the politicians. Our crowds should be surrounding cathedrals, not just the parliaments.

And we need to forget the state-based marriage push. It’s chances of success are small. It divides us on a state by state basis. It will be easy to be defeated, again and again, draining will and energy each time.

Footnote

A big shout out for the Facebook page Gay Marriage Rights in Australia, which has just topped two hundred thousand fans worldwide. Now fly them all to Canberra for a big gay weekend.

 

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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. "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)