News & Comment
What I admire in two great equality advocates
Crikey.com has published an article by Brian Greig highlighting the likelihood of an increasingly-embarrassed Labor Party trying to shut down the marriage equality debate by establishing a Labor-friendly sock-puppet organisation.
"If anyone thinks Gillard’s office will put up with this any longer they’re dreaming. Her office will inevitably set about creating a new gay marriage group. A nicer one. A tame one. One that will be quiet. One that won’t annoy her. One that can spin a poor conference outcome Labor’s way. One that can be corralled into impotency.
It will urge recruits to work with the ALP’s strategy. It will have maps, polling and arguments designed to show well meaning but naive campaigners that the best chance of success lies in making the campaign go quiet. No more activism. No more embarrassing Gillard. Just lots of fruitless, time-consuming meetings away from media and public attention.
The uninitiated will be told that conservative voters in outer urban seats don’t like the issue being raised, but will begrudgingly support it if it goes through quietly. If you keep banging on about it, they’ll say, you’ll lose support. So, everybody, Shhhh!!!"
Brian's right that Labor has tried to control LGBTI community organisations in the past, or just set up their own, in order to reduce pressure on the ALP.
He's right there has never been a gay issue more likely to suffer this fate than marriage equality. In fact, the pressure has already started. I referred to it in a recent article I wrote.
He's right the ALP National Conference outcome on equality might be worse-than-useless and Labor will want a "community voice" to spin this in a way that reduces electoral damage for inner-city MPs.
Is he right that a new "Alliance" might be this voice? I guess we'll have to wait and see.
But what is certain that he has identified a real threat to successful, independent community action on marriage equality.
For that he deserves credit.
Credit is something Brian Greig has received quite a bit of lately.
At the weekend he was named as a recipient of an Order of Australia.
This award is well-deserved.
Through his 20-plus year career in public life, first an a community activist and then a Senator, Brian has never faltered in his advocacy for LGBTI human rights.
His work is characterised by rationality, patience and humour on the one hand, and on the other, a capacity to recognise and seize the moment.
This is a rare and immensely effective combination. Brian is an activist's activist.
I am a friend of Brian's and have been for as long as he has been an LGBTI human rights advocate. I share many of his philosophies and strategies for legal and social reform.
Perhaps this blinds me to his flaws, just as I may be blind to my own.
But whatever Brian's flaws may be, they don't seem to matter much.
The measure of an activist's skill is his or her achievements.
For Brian, the fact that Western Australia is an immensely more LGBTI-friendly place than it was 20 years ago is that measure.
Another advocate whose skills I have come to admire is Alex Greenwich.
We work together in Australian Marriage Equality.
When I first starting working with Alex I saw myself as the more experienced activist handing on the baton from the generation to which Brian and I belong, to the next.
But I quickly learnt that experience isn't always the most important thing.
Alex has skills I have never seen in any other Australian LGBTI human rights advocate, which is a good thing given marriage equality is an LGBTI human rights issue the scope and challenge of which Australia has never seen before.
He not only seizes the moment, Greig-style. He does so in a way I can only describe as entrepreneurial.
By this I mean knows how turn every challenge into an advantage, every deficit into a profit.
On top of this he is a born diplomat, not in the common sense of being polite for the sake of avoiding offence, but in the original sense of getting the best from people who could just as easily be behaving at their worst, of resolving potential conflict into aspiration for the common good.
When the history of the successful marriage equality campaign is written, Alex's ability to effect positive change will be seen as one of the reasons equality was achieved.
In other news,
New York state takes an important step towards marriage equality, highlighting the ALP's backwardness on this issue, yet again.
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