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Gay Marriage and the ALP Conference

December 2, 2011

Julia Gillard delivers the opening address (Picture: Renee Nowytarger, The Australian)

If the ALP Conference goes for a conscience vote on gay marriage then I guess there will soon be a vote in Federal Parliament on a motion for gay marriage and the alternative, a motion for civil unions.

The motion for civil unions will get up with almost unanimous support.

Some advocates of gay marriage oppose civil unions because they think this will mean marriage equality will never be achieved, that is, the community will settle for civil unions and not take the next step. I disagree. After a few years of civil unions, the move to full marriage equality will happen effortlessly. Apparently this is the trend line in the UK, and I can see it happening here. Give it another three years.

  1. Nickmof permalink
    December 2, 2011 4:12 pm

    Spot on. I was working with Stonewall in the UK when civil unions passed. Their strategy was exactly that. Get the civil ceremony equal in all but name and then push for full rights down the line which is exactly what is happening now.

  2. alain bonard permalink
    December 2, 2011 4:52 pm

    It’s old hat in NZ, thanks to the Helen Clark government.. Cheers ..

  3. Mark permalink
    December 2, 2011 5:22 pm

    Why not just do it now and save an unnecessary step? Surely you can see that it will provide far more good than it might do damage?

    • Bob Carr permalink
      December 2, 2011 6:14 pm

      There isn’t a majority for it. That’s why the strategy I have described makes sense. Civic unions now, marriage in a few years an inevitability. Given that there isn’t a majority now in parliament or party at the moment.

  4. December 2, 2011 5:33 pm

    Centre Unity cannot survive if it continues to surrender to libertarianism on both economic as well as life and marriage issues.

    A return to the McKell, and where required the Langite NSW traditions of family values/working class unionism backed up by a certain level of protectionism to maintain full time employment is the cure.

    Polls are no indicator and pragmatism with no principles and hence no backbone is what is crippling Centre Unity. Unity withe the Left can only take palce on economic policy.

  5. December 2, 2011 10:13 pm

    It would be a win/win if heterosexual couples could opt for civil union rather than marriage.

  6. scott permalink
    December 3, 2011 3:41 am

    I live in Canada where gay marriage has been a given for a decade or so, and civillisation as we know it goes on as it always has. It certainly hasn’t affected my own heterosexual marriage one bit.

    Given the nervous nellies in Australia and the rather unhealthy grip the Catholic church has on the big political parties, a slow and steady strategy towards marriage equality is the best step.

  7. TerjeP permalink
    December 3, 2011 8:42 am

    Personally I oppose the creation of a new class of legislated relationship called a civil union. We should just keep pushing the argument for allowing same sex marriage until the job is done. It may take a bit longer but it is a better outcome. In addition we should be seeking to get the state out of marriage as much as is possible.

  8. Alphonse permalink
    December 3, 2011 3:54 pm

    It’s a pity that marriage appears as a head of power in the Commonwealth Constitution.

    The ideal would be for the State to disavow powers over marriage, only have civil unions, recognise marriage only to the extent that it is a form of civil union, but otherwise leave it as the exclusive preserve of those authorities that dispense it as a sacrament not to be defiled by homosexuality or adultery.

  9. Shane Easson permalink
    December 3, 2011 7:32 pm

    I’d give it a year.

    I’m proud of the ALP Conference decision today to both support equality in marriage but also to allow a conscience vote. Those in the ALP who on religious grounds cannot support gay marriage should not be spurned.

    The political class in Australia has been both far behind the public (especially women and the young) on gay marriage and also well behind the political class in the UK and Europe. That several States in the US have adopted gay marriage speaks volumes about the modern ALP.

    Yet politically, gay marriage is a first order issue for the ALP. Have no doubt that the seats of Sydney and Grayndler are under threat from the Greens until gay marriage is passed. If it is then Melbourne can also be won back. Until then we’ll always have to live with the spectre of ‘fake Julia’ who has handled the issue awfully. It really takes some doing when a big majority of ALP members and MP’s support marriage equality to allow the Greens with a single MP in the lower house to ‘own’ the benifits of reform. That is until now.

    Just about the worst course Gillard could now take would be to support ‘civil unions’. It’a all a bit late for that ‘uncle tom’ option. .

    I’d expect the Stephen Jones private members bill to fail next year and succeed the following. It’s absurd for Abbott to expect his colleages to hold the line for long. The break will start with many Libs supporting civil unions and then having to face the true logic of their views.

    Finally, isn’t it sad to observe the great historian/commentator of the ‘Australian Settlement’ of the 20th century, the twice married once divorced Paul Kelly unable to grasp the social issues of the 21st.

  10. December 3, 2011 9:35 pm

    “In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the only persons recognised as having a right to marry and found a family are a man and a woman of marriageable age. The plain fact of the matter is that marriage is a privileged relationship (“entitled to protection by the law”) in which children are conceived, born, and brought up. The post-modern idea that we can fight nature and make marriage mean whatever we want it to mean is stupid, dangerous, and completely without regard for children.” – Quoting Fr. John Fleming.

  11. December 4, 2011 8:42 am

    Nice to see the ALP is wasting time on a side issue that’s only of interest to a small coterie of inner-city luvvies.

    Meanwhile, families everywhere in Australia are suffering from crushing housing costs brought about by lunatic government land use policies and over regulation. It’s fascinating to read that the median house price (for existing houses) is $162k in the US. That’s affordable housing for you.

    I’m so glad to see you’ve got your priorities right – not.

    • Inner-coity luvvie permalink
      December 4, 2011 9:12 pm

      Spoken like a true country red neck.

      Would you say the same if a few people still had slaves – but its ok because its a small coterie of inner city luvvies who have slaves? Thats just a silly argument.

      As for struggle street – do you think gay families are immune from the pressures of everyday life?

  12. Nathan Thomas permalink
    December 4, 2011 10:40 am

    Hey Bob

    I am not sure I agree with you.

    Civil unions were introduced into UK in 2004 and they are now saying they will move towards marriage equality by 2015. That’s 11 yrs to wait.

    I am a big supporter of marriage equality. Civil Unions is a certificate to endorse a defacto relationship in Australia – that’s the way I see it. It will not provide any additional positive to equality.

    I would support civil unions if it was open to all relationships as some of my straight friends would prefer a civil union.

    We already have the majority of the rights that go with marriage – so we are fighting for equality now based on symbolism and being treated equally in the eyes of the law.

    So marriage is what we are fighting for.

    I’m not sure about the UK but their civil unions bill may have been significant because it may have granted additional rights to gay couples that they previously did not have.

    I also note that the majority of anti gay marriage camp and the pro gay marriage camp both do not support civil unions. Politicians see it as a compromise – but nobody is happy with that outcome except the politicians. Just look at Malcolm Turnbull’s survey. Overwhelming both sides opposed civil unions.

    Lets stop fighting over a word, its time for the government to treat all citizens equally.

    Well done to Penny Wong.

    Shame on Juia Gillard and Joe De Bruyn – that man’s speech was just awful – and he deserved the reaction he got from the conference.

    Best wishes to you Bob – I am a fan of yours.

  13. Nathan Thomas permalink
    December 4, 2011 10:43 am

    One final thing Bob,

    If you were gay – do you think you would support a move to civil unions? And what do you see as the benefits of creating a new Act of parliament which provides no additional rights to same sex couples? I would think its extra beaurocracy and expense to the government and business. Just my thoughts

  14. TerjeP permalink
    December 5, 2011 6:50 am

    Michael Webb – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a pretty awful document. Filled with poisonous positive rights and less than compelling on negative rights (real rights).

  15. Michael Longley permalink
    December 5, 2011 10:53 am

    There is nothing just or fair about it keeping the restriction; noone is made freer and noone’s living condition is raised by not letting homosexuals marry. The only argument available is a purely reactionary claim that it ‘has always been this way’.

    You simply cannot argue for the goal of marriage inequality or devise means of achieving that goal in a progressive manner, it does not better our society and it cannot continue on as part of the Labor Party as we try to rebuild.

    Civil unions will be a step forward just as the conference votes were a step forward, but until marriage equality is finally achieved no progressive should stop being angry or indignant about this issue and the action of our opponents inside and outside of the party.

  16. December 5, 2011 8:58 pm

    I’ve seen the progress in the UK highlighted, and I see marriage equality happening in Australia soon as well.

  17. December 14, 2011 3:51 am

    What about get the government out of marriage altogether?
    As Ron Paul says “I am supportive of all voluntary associations and people can call it whatever they want.”

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