With less than four months left until ALP National Conference decides whether the party’s platform position, which supports marriage equality, should be made binding on all ALP MPs, over the next week I will be sending the below letter to all members of the Federal Parliamentary Caucus.
Well, all except five. I have previously written to the Opposition Leader, the Hon Bill Shorten MP, on this topic, although I am yet to receive a response (https://alastairlawrie.net/2015/01/24/bill-shorten-will-you-lead-on-marriage-equality/).
I will also send a different letter to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator the Hon Penny Wong, thanking them for publicly supporting the push for a binding vote, in this article published in The Saturday Paper on 28 March 2015: http://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/politics/2015/03/28/pressure-builds-same-sex-marriage-libs-and-alp/14274612001683#.VR234boxGX0
Next week I will also send an alternative letter to Mr Chris Hayes MP, and Senator Joe Bullock, who, as far as I can tell, remain the only caucus members to have publicly declared they would cross the floor – and presumably be expelled from the Labor Party – rather than vote for LGBTI equality.
If you support a binding vote inside the Parliamentary Labor Party, and like the letter below, I encourage you to send similar letters to the ALP MPs and Senators in your state or territory (you can find their contact details on the Parliament House website: http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Guidelines_for_Contacting_Senators_and_Members ).
Because, if you want #ItsTimeToBind to be successful, then it’s time to get writing.
Please Support a Binding Vote in Favour of Marriage Equality
I am writing to you about an issue that is important to me, and thousands of other lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Australians: marriage equality.
Specifically, I am writing to call on you to support a binding vote in favour of marriage equality for all Labor Party MPs and Senators, with a motion expected on this topic at this year’s ALP National Conference in Melbourne on July 24-26.
The previous ALP National Conference, in Sydney in December 2011, took the important first step, of amending the platform to officially support marriage equality, irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.
However, the 2011 conference resolution that “any decision reached is not binding on any member of the Party” effectively guaranteed that marriage equality would not pass during the last term of parliament, and continues to make passage almost impossible today.
This resolution was wrong in principle. It took a matter of human rights – of the equality of LGBTI people – and treated it as something that was ‘optional’, rather than fundamental. There is absolutely no reason why the question of whether to recognise LGBTI relationships under secular marriage law should be left up to the personal opinions of individual ALP MPs and Senators.
The 2011 conference resolution also ignores the traditions of the Australian Labor Party as a collectivist organisation. Solidarity should mean exactly that, and explicitly include solidarity to help achieve the full and equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
In short, there is nothing so special or extraordinary about the issue of marriage equality that means the ALP’s ‘standard operating procedure’ – of binding its MPs and Senators to support the official party platform – should be ignored.
For all of these reasons, I urge you to support a binding vote at this year’s ALP National Conference. If you do, and if a new resolution is successful, then not only will it help to hasten the passage of marriage equality, but it would also be a powerful symbol of the growing acceptance of LGBTI people.
Imagine all of the MPs and Senators of Australia’s oldest and proudest political party standing as one, voting as one, to say that they will no longer tolerate the second-class treatment of LGBTI people or their relationships. That would be an incredible moment in the history of our country, and of our party.
I write ‘our party’ because I have been a member of the Australian Labor Party for 13 years. For over seven years, or more than half the time I have been a member, the ALP did have a binding vote on marriage equality; MPs and Senators were bound to vote against.
Now that the majority of the Australian community, a majority of Labor Party members, and a majority of its MPs and Senators, are in favour of marriage equality, there is no legitimate reason why there should not be another binding vote, only this time in support of equality rather than discrimination.
In 2015, rather than simply having a history of binding against marriage equality, the Australian Labor Party should make history by binding for it.
Finally, on a personal note, I want you to know that my fiancé Steve and I have been together for seven years, and have been engaged for more than five.
Just like thousands of other LGBTI-inclusive couples around the country, the length of our engagement has been, and continues to be, determined by decisions made in the House of Representatives, and Senate, and, just as relevantly, at ALP National Conferences.
And, just like thousands of other LGBTI people across Australia, we have grown tired of waiting for rights that are denied to us simply because of who we love.
The 2011 conference resolution, described above, guaranteed that marriage equality would not be passed during the past three and a half years, with the consequence that we would have to wait three and a half more years (at least) to enjoy those rights.
I implore you to do everything in your power to ensure that the 2015 National Conference does not make the same mistake, and instead supports a binding vote in favour of marriage equality so that it can be passed by the parliament as quickly as possible.
Because we deserve the right to set our own wedding dates, not the Parliament. And because we – Steve and I, and thousands of other couples just like us – have waited long enough already.