How Bandt 'Blocked' Marriage Equality


It's little recognised, but the political party that on the surface appears to champion marriage equality is in fact the very political party which caused its defeat. 

In 2011, at the ALP National Conference, the group I lead, Rainbow Labor, successfully changed the party's national platform on marriage equality, after years of campaigning. 

But while this took centre stage, 35 other platform changes also occurred, leading to real change for LGBTI Australians. Bob Carr's condemnation of anti-gay laws in Nigeria and Uganda, new strategies for LGBTI aged care and support for the LGBTI health alliance were all products of changes we made to the party platform.

The Member for Throsby, Stephen Jones, committed to introducing a Private Member's Bill in 2012 and the momentum was with us. Together with Jones, Rainbow Labor began discussions with a number of Coalition MPs. We wanted to see if they would allow a conscience vote on this issue, as they had done many times before on Private Member's Bills.

In discussions with the Coalition, it became clear that while a great many wanted to support reform, they needed two things — some clear space from the issue for a while, and room to allow them to undergo their own pre-selections in March and April of 2012. 

Here's where the Greens declared their position. The moment the Greens "discovered" Rainbow Labor was planning on making this a bi-partisan issue (as all successful conscience votes have been), they couldn't handle this not being a "Green issue". That's why we saw the Adam Bandt Bill

It was a devastating piece of political brinkmanship, which destroyed any chance of bi-partisanship or Coalition support. Their manoeuvring effectively meant defeat for reform, but it was enough to keep the issue alive for the Greens to campaign on in 2013. 

This blatant politicking was sickening. The Greens were just in it for a headline — the reason why there were no less than four marriage bills in Parliament at once.

This same issue played out again in the Senate. Rainbow Labor offered to co-sponsor a Bill with the Greens, but this plan was again rejected by the Greens. If you need further proof of their rushed effort to "own" the issue, see the poor legislative drafting of the Greens Bills in both Houses. If passed, their hastily cobbled-together bill could have caused legal headaches for transgender and intersex Australians.

And where were the Greens when Rainbow Labor was lobbying for Certificates for No Impediments (CNI) for same-sex marriages conducted overseas? Although they were quick to claim it as a positive move, they never pushed for it themselves.

Or in aged care, where the Federal Government's LGBTI reforms are world-leading? No Greens campaigning there either — or in taxation, superannuation, health, education or foreign affairs. In fact, on all 85 legislative changes, which will mean real practical equality for LGBTI Australians, the Greens remain silent.

It seems there's no headline in describing the impact of gender binary coding on Medicare claims for transgender Australians, which is an example of real reform.

So when Adam Bandt debates marriage equality in the House of Representatives today, ask yourself: what did the Greens ever did to lobby for superannuation or taxation changes or for paid parental leave for gay mums and dads?

In my view, and in the view of many LGBTI Australians, the Greens care more about a headline than they do about real equality for all Australians.

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