139 People Standing Against the Tide of History

First, a disclaimer: this is hardly an original column. There have been many other bloggers and social media users who have posted the full list of our federal parliamentarians who recently rejected equal marriage. One particular website which is impressive in both its comprehensiveness and usefulness is ‘the98against’ (for those Members of the House of Representatives who voted no) and its corresponding Senate site (‘the41against’), which also helpfully provides the contact details of each MP.

Nevertheless, I think it is important for us to document – in as many places as possible, and as loudly as possible – the names of each and every Australian parliamentarian who decided that only opposite-sex couples should have the legal right to marry in this country. These 139 people decided that there are some rights which should only be granted to heterosexuals, and to entrench this homophobic distinction in our nation’s laws for several more years (at least).

The majority of the list is made up of Coalition MPs. In fact, every Coalition MP who voted cast their vote against equality and for discrimination. This is in part the direct result of Opposition Leader (the not very honourable) Tony Abbott’s decision to deny Liberal and National MPs a conscience vote. However, it is also partly a consequence of the gradual decline and death of the moderate wing of the Liberal Party, and the failure of Coalition MPs to exhibit any evidence of a spine by voting for equality anyway (despite constantly reminding others that they are free to cross the floor on any vote).

Indeed, only one Coalition MP deserves any kind of pass mark – and their name is not Malcolm Turnbull. Liberal Senator for Queensland Sue Boyce gave a principled and dignified speech in favour of equality and then abstained from the final vote (one assumes to preserve any kind of future within the now-quite-illiberal Liberal Party).

Malcolm, on the other hand, cast his vote against equality, just like Tony Abbott and Cory Bernardi. In the one place where it counted – on the floor of parliament – there was nothing to distinguish Malcolm from Cory; and that is something which the electors of Wentworth should keep in mind at the ballot box next year.

In fact, the list below shows a range of people who have voted against equality despite having a high number of LGBTI Australians living in their electorates. This includes Teresa Gambarro in Brisbane, Kevin Rudd in Griffith, Jane Prentice in Ryan, Turnbull, John Murphy in Reid, Kelvin Thomson in Wills, Michael Danby in Melbourne Ports and Kelly O’Dwyer in Higgins. They should all fear repercussions from progressive voters come next year (although how much they suffer remains up to us).

Of course, the list below includes a number of ALP parliamentarians, who chose to exercise their ‘conscience’ vote and reject the ALP’s official platform, which, as of last year’s national conference, actually supports same-sex marriage. It includes a range of people who really should know better – as well as Thomson and Danby, I would add to that list Julie Owens, Daryl Melham and Anna Burke.

And then there is the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. After foxing for months on the subject – and giving the impression to marriage equality supporters that he would vote yes – Kevin disgracefully voted to entrench inequality in federal law. Thus he amply demonstrated that he has not grown during his time on the backbench, and those people who are looking to the future of the ALP should no longer cast their eyes in his oh-so-eager, ‘please pick me’direction.

Rudd’s cowardice, on top of Julia Gillard’s ongoing capitulation to the Christian Right, has cast the spotlight on those ALP MPs who are thinking about the future, and what a ‘no vote’ would have looked like on their record in 2, 5 or even 10 years from now (a hint: it is the equivalent of someone saying today that they continue to support discrimination against Aborigines).

Stephen Smith voted yes, possibly for this reason, as did Jason Clare. Bill Shorten’s vote was the most encouraging – he is a political pragmatist of the highest order and a (well-known) self-promoter. It speaks volumes that he knows which way the wind is blowing. By being clever on this issue, Shorten has confirmed his place near the front of the queue of who should lead the party when we eventually get rid of Gillard (Greg Combet would also have to be on that list simply because of his general awesomeness, while Mark Butler is a longer-term consideration).

In fact, in the medium term this vote will be able to be used by a weapon by an astute future Labor leader against the Liberals. Whenever a matter of social policy or social justice arises in 2017, or 2023, the ALP head will be able to point to Joe Hockey, or Josh Frydenburg, or any MP who is currently in Parliament, and point to this vote to show how regressive they truly are. It is definitely something to store away for a rainy day.

In the meantime, those of us who simply want the right to get married in our own country will have to wait. And the size of the loss – 98 to 42 in the House of Reps – means that wait may be quite long. Contrary to popular opinion, while the tide will continue to move in our direction, the fact that people are now on record for and against (well, overwhelmingly against), means that it necessarily will take a public about-face for those MPs to support equality in the future. Saying that they got something wrong is not intrinsic to the nature of most politicians.

Even if the Liberals will have the excuse that they were denied a conscience vote this time, their recorded vote against will nevertheless be a factor in considering where to cast their ballot next time around. And the disturbingly high number of ALP MPs who voted no, despite being free to vote yes, demonstrates that there is still significant work to be done on the left side of politics as well.

In fact, the scale of this defeat, especially in the House of Representatives, has done nothing more than confirm to me the likelihood that it will take at least a couple of federal elections, and possibly three, for there to be sufficient turnover such that a future federal parliament is in the position to support marriage equality. No wonder the AME and other marriage activists have transferred their attention to securing same-sex marriage at state and territory level. For the foreseeable future, that is likely to be much more fertile ground.


House of Representatives Members who voted no:

Abbott, AJ Adams, DGH
Alexander, JG Andrews, KJ
Andrews, KL Baldwin, RC
Billson, BF Bishop, BK
Bishop, JI Bowen, CE
Bradbury, DJ Briggs, JE
Broadbent, RE Buchholz, S
Burke, AS Byrne, AM
Chester, D Christensen, GR
Ciobo, SM Cobb, JK
Coulton, M Crook, AJ
D’Ath, YM Dutton, PC
Emerson, CA Entsch, WG
Fitzgibbon, JA Fletcher, PW
Forrest, JA Frydenberg, JA
Gambaro, T Gash, J
Gillard, JE Griggs, NL
Hartsuyker, L Hawke, AG
Hayes, CP Hockey, JB
Hunt, GA Husic, EN
Irons, SJ Jensen, DG
Jones, ET Katter, RC
Keenan, M Kelly, C
Laming, A Ley, SP
Lyons, GR Macfarlane, IE
Marino, NB Markus, LE
Matheson, RG McClelland, RB
McCormack, MF Melham, D
Mirabella, S Morrison, SJ
Moylan, JE Murphy, JP
Neumann, SK Neville, PC
O’Dowd, KD O’Dwyer, KM
O’Neill, DM Owens, J
Prentice, J Pyne, CM
Ramsey, RE Randall, DJ
Ripoll, BF Robb, AJ
Robert, SR Rowland, MA
Roy, WB Rudd, KM
Ruddock, PM Schultz, AJ
Scott, BC Secker, PD (teller)
Smith, ADH Somlyay, AM
Southcott, AJ Stone, SN
Swan, WM Symon, MS
Tehan, DT Thomson, KJ
Truss, WE Tudge, AE
Turnbull, MB Vamvakinou, M
Van Manen, AJ Vasta, RX
Washer, MJ Windsor, AHC
Wyatt, KG Zappia, A

Senators who voted no:

Abetz, E Back, CJ
Bilyk, CL Bishop, TM
Boswell, RLD Bushby, DC
Cash, MC Colbeck, R
Collins, JMA Conroy, SM
Cormann, M Edwards, S
Eggleston, A Farrell, D
Fawcett, DJ Fierravanti-Wells, C
Fifield, MP Furner, ML
Gallacher, AM Heffernan, W
Hogg, JJ Humphries, G
Johnston, D Joyce, B
Kroger, H Macdonald, ID
Madigan, JJ Mason, B
McKenzie, B Nash, F
Parry, S Payne, MA
Polley, H Ronaldson, M
Ryan, SM Scullion, NG
Sinodinos, A Smith, D
Stephens, U Sterle, G
Williams, JR

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