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An historic week for equality in Australia

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It has been a monumental week for LGBT rights in Australia – and Queensland in particular – although Matt Williams says it could have been a whole lot better.



The last week has been a monumental week for LGBT rights, nationwide.

Earlier this week, we saw the Queensland Legislative Assembly pass the Civil Partnerships Bill 2011 — a bill allowing for and recognising the validity of same sex relationships. Then, yesterday, the Australian Labor Party officially changed its position on same sex marriage, adding it to their party platform.

In a sitting of the Queensland Legislative Assembly that ran late into the night, the views of numerous MPs from both sides of the political divide were heard — along with the views of their constituents. The bill was eventually passed at 11:10pm, with 47 votes (46 Labor MPs and Independent MP Peter Wellington) to 40.



Deputy Premier Andrew Fraser said that the Civil Partnerships Bill struck a blow against the discrimination that same sex couples had faced in the past, calling it a “momentous occasion for civil rights in this state,” as Queensland moved into line with Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

In a move considered surprising given his previous vocal support for marriage equality, the non-sitting, de facto leader of the Liberal National Party and former Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Campbell Newman, did not allow LNP MPs a conscience vote on the issue — which raises the question, “what does our alternative Premier actually believe?” or, better yet, “can we trust what Campbell Newman says?”

For a bit of added poignancy, the Civil Partnerships Bill 2011 passed the Legislative Assembly exactly 21 years to the day after Queensland decriminalised homosexuality — how far we’ve come in such a short stretch of time.



Of course, that isn’t the end of the changes that we’ve seen over the last week, with the Federal Labor Party officially changing its position on same sex marriage yesterday at the Labor National Conference. Unfortunately, as I predicted several months ago, the Prime Minister has, while allowing the party platform to change, essentially scuppered the debate by allowing any bill on the issue to go to a conscience vote — thereby dooming it to fail on the floor of the Federal Parliament.

In October, I suggested that the Prime Minister might circumvent the National Conference altogether, allowing a conscience vote to get shot down before we got to today — effectively “washing her hands” of the issue before it could go to a vote. Well, I wasn’t quite correct there, but I wasn’t too far off.

By allowing a conscience vote, Julia Gillard – a puppet of the right faction – will have her own views on marriage equality unchallenged. A conscience vote in the House of Representatives will not pass — even if Tony Abbott allows a conscience vote on the issue (which he won’t, regardless of the Liberal Party being a “broad church”), so any amendment to the Marriage Act will not pass.

So. The Prime Minister & the Labor Party can bask in the glory of being a “progressive party”, without being progressive at all. Brilliant… and completely predictable.

And now we wait. Stephen Jones, an ALP MP, will be putting up a private members bill at the start of the next sitting period of Parliament, which means another month or so before marriage equality is shot down in flames in the Parliament.

Don’t get me wrong. This week has been a monumental day in the history of LGBT rights in Australia. It’s just...I don’t think any of us should expect anything more to come out of it any time soon.

 
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An historic week for equality in Australia

It has been a monumental week for LGBT rights in Australia – and Queensland in ...  
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