It seems as if the federal election has been coming for an eternity! Australia has been in pre-election mode since the Australian Labor Party (ALP) chose its new leadership team of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. Touted as representing generational change, the pair’s key objective is to appear blandly modern and progressive and to offend no one between now and the election — even if this means kowtowing to big business and family values homophobes. While the ALP seems to have satisfied the Australian Christian Lobby and the Australian Family Association — perhaps with an eye on another shameful preference deal with Family First — they have not satisfied Radical Women!
Waiting for a “breakthrough.” We’ve been vigorously campaigning for same-sex relationship equality since the ALP teamed up with the “back-to-the-’50s” Howard Government in 2004 to pass an amendment to the Marriage Act, which outlaws recognition of same-sex marriages conducted overseas and prevents same-sex marriage in this country. In response to our representations, the Shadow Attorney-General, Joe Ludwig, and his predecessor, Kelvin Thomson, both promised that a “breakthrough” policy announcement on relationship recognition was on the way.
With the media spotlight at the ALP Conference on the compliant adoption by delegates — including union officials — of an industrial relations policy that has been branded “WorkChoices lite,” the party announced its “breakthrough.” It pledges to support state-based relationship recognition schemes, but reiterated that it will not support proposals “that mimic marriage or undermine existing laws that define marriage as being between a man and a woman.” It did not even promise a federal relationship register! When grilled by queer activists about its failure to support marriage equality, Senator Ludwig explained that the ALP will only countenance opposite-sex marriage, because it’s a “labour-valued tradition.” What a shame it doesn’t put the same value on the traditional right of workers to strike!
In contrast, Radical Women has no time for marital traditions. We fight for marriage equality, because winning recognition for queers to wed will weaken an institution whose very purpose is to keep women in bondage. This will happen in the same way that no-fault divorce laws and women’s independent incomes have made modern relationships more fluid —while rattling and loosening the patriarchal chains.
Organise and fight. Opinion polls suggest that many voters cannot stomach another term of the Howard Government. We are with the majority on that! But while eager to see Howard forced to vacate Kirribilli House and The Lodge, we don’t have illusions that the ALP will do anything other than administer the same old profit-driven system. That’s why we need to build movements that are politically independent and ready to lead a fight, no matter who is in government. So don’t wait for polling day — grab your diary and mark August 12th as a day when activists around the country will protest the third anniversary of the same-sex marriage ban. While state-based relationship registers are welcome, equality is the end game. We’ll stop at nothing less.