19 Sep 2012

MPs Are Out Of Touch With The Rest Of Us

By New Matilda

A hefty majority of MPs today voted against marriage equality. They're out of step with community sentiment - and they're fighting a battle they can't hope to win

What do Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull have in common?

They all voted against Labor MP Stephen Jones' marriage equality bill in the House of Representatives today. It's not just the PM who is out of touch with community sentiment, it's also the main contenders for her job. 98 MPs put marriage rights for same-sex couples on hold — and 42 voted in favour.

As many have pointed out, the proportion of MPs who voted against the bill — 65 per cent — is roughly equivalent to the level of support for gay marriage in Australia.

Cory Bernardi resigned as parliamentary secretary today after making obnoxious comments likening same-sex marriage to bestiality. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott described those comments as "ill disciplined" and praised Bernardi for his political talents.

Bernardi might have been consigned to the backbench but his view on same-sex marriage was upheld by a resounding majority of MPs. Wayne Swan rebuked Tony Abbott for his weak response to Bernardi — but he too joined Abbott in voting against marriage rights for all Australians.

The speeches delivered on marriage equality allowed some senators and parliamentarians to flaunt their homophobia and to vaunt an idea of family that is out of step with the experiences of millions of Australians — gay or straight.

More memorable are the speeches in favour of marriage equality which will eventually hold the day. Doug Cameron and John Faulkner both made the case for the bill firmly, as did the Greens senators who have long advocated for marriage rights.

Faulkner put it plainly: "I support this bill because I believe that no government should deny rights to any citizen on the basis of race, sex, religion, country of origin or sexual preference." It's notable that marriage equality is a plank of the ALP national policy platform.

Senator Penny Wong has been the most prominent ALP advocate for marriage equality and she addressed the Senate on the bill this morning.

"The aspiration and struggle for equality has been a constant in our history. Australia hasn't always been an equal society, but ultimately we always move in the direction of greater equality."

Wong's optimism about the future of marriage equality in Australia is rousing.

"Our numbers have grown, as the numbers of those who oppose marriage equality have got smaller. The momentum has been one way. Many of my colleagues who have previously opposed marriage equality, now support it."

Those 98 MPs who voted against marriage equality today are fighting that momentum. If they aren't prepared to move toward greater equality, it is certain that the heirs to their seats eventually will.

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Posted Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 17:20

Wow thanks for the summary NM. Now I am definitely up-to-date.

Ben Heslop

Posted Wednesday, September 19, 2012 - 22:55

One of the things I always find strange. People keep quoting this statistic that most australians are for same sex marriage, based on some survey.
I, all my family, and ALL of my firends have never been asked or seen this supposed survey. None of my family or friends knows of even one person who has seen this survey.
what were the questions asked?
When were they asked?
Can anyone track down this survey used to support same sex marriage?
I would just be curios to test its accuracy and thoroughness and impartiality to ensure it was an honest and representative survey.
And before the Glebe treehuggers come out with machetes or refuse to vote into the bowling or what ever club.haha!!
I heartily support same sex marriage but would just love confirmation of real community attitiudes. My friends and family don't happen to be a wide enough sample to represent australia

Posted Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 14:43

No just "gay or straight" but also bisexual, lesbian, trans*, intersex, queer and questioning.

Gay is not an umbrella term for the LGBTIQ (or QUILTBAG as I prefer) community.


Posted Thursday, September 20, 2012 - 16:12

It's not just for gay marriage that our pollies like to ignore majority views. Try euthanasia. Why is it that they fear the religious lobbies so much? Tasmania has shown that they are paper tigers...

How about our involvement in Afghanistan? Surely another example where majority views are ignored. Not the God Botherers this time, just subservience to US foreign policy. Ditto re Israel....

When are we all going to get angry enough about these things to make our bipartisan leaders aware that it's not good enough?

Dr Dog
Posted Friday, September 21, 2012 - 14:15

davedave, perhaps you could cut to the chase and simply ask your family what they think.

Posted Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 17:08

Its obviously not a civil/human rights issues for the MP's - when an alarming amount of them have religious convictions of a Christian variety and are active in Parliament prayer groups and in their communities.
Even though my MP for Blair said in his maiden speech he is a Christian but knows the difference between Church and State - not voting to change a secular Marriage Act shows he is an ambitious man on the side of patriarchal, Christian ideology of the last couple of thousand years, and will enhance this status within the many faith disciplines spouting up everywhere when he goes and gives a sermon now and again.
He likes that.
I appreciate his efforts, except on this contradictory statement of perpetuating a cultural tradition that is discriminatory for the State to continue. It would do no harm to anybody but say to parents still kicking their kids out of home because they are gay and therefore the anti-christ - in civil society we respect all those who love like we learned to accept mixed race marriages etc etc. In a Parliament full of lawyers who should know better considering the cultural abuses of women through Marriage over the years.(and how long it took before you could divorce).
As for the P.M. on this - I admire her, but whether this was a totally political manouvre to prove to the Christian and other religious she may be atheist but she is not threat to their beliefs so feel safe to vote for her. Power corrupts doesn't it?