a) Gay Tasmania
Light at the end of the tunnel
This article was published in MCV and SX News on 26.9.11
Last Wednesday’s debate on a marriage equality motion in the Tasmanian Parliament was a preview of what it will be like when the Federal Parliament finally deals with the issue.
Gay rights advocates and anti-equality clergy greeted each other courteously and uneasily in the lobby. TV journalists hunted for vox pops among the supporters and opponents milling in the lobby. Teary same-sex partners hugged pro-equality MPs.
In what we can only hope is also a sign of things to come, the House erupted with cheers when the motion was passed thanks to the unanimous support of the Greens and Labor.
But the passage of last week’s motion was much more than just a dress-rehearsal for the real deal, and far more than the “meaningless distraction” its opponents claimed it to be.
It sent a strong message to the Federal Government and the ALP National Conference that the tide of history is running towards equality.
It gave hope to thousands of same-sex partners and their families who are increasingly frustrated with those obstructionist federal political leaders who refuse to take the issue seriously.
It showed that some of the most unlikely supporters of equality are also the strongest, with compelling contributions from Labor MPs with Christian and blue-collar backgrounds.
For the first time the debate raised the positive economic impact of marriage equality as a serious public policy issue with the release of figures showing Tasmania could benefit from $135 million in wedding spend if it follows up its in-principle support for marriage equality with legislation.
The passage of the motion also sent out a positive message to the rest of Australia about how much Tasmania has changed. The state which once lagged so badly on LGBTI human rights is now determined to lead the way because we, as much as anyone, understand how damaging discrimination and prejudice can be.
Most of all, the successful motion sent a positive message to LGBTI people that their political leaders recognise their rights, their citizenship and their full humanity.
“I’m so happy. I’m just so happy,” a recently-out Tasmanian gay teenager exclaimed on YouTube.
People who think it’s “meaningless” to give young gay people that kind of hope simply don’t have a heart.
My hope is that other state and territory parliaments will follow Tasmania’s lead and pass their own motions in favour of equality.
Beyond the cheers, the hugs and the microphones, what I saw last Wednesday was the light at the end of the marriage equality tunnel. I’m now more determined than ever that sometime soon the nation will reach that light.
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