In which our intrepid hero questions his Prime Minister’s commitment to fighting discrimination.

Government removes same-sex discrimination, the headline grandiloquently proclaimed. The article (from the Sydney Morning Herald, via AAP) went on to trumpet this newfound era of equality:

The Rudd government has finished its one-year anniversary by honouring an election commitment to remove discrimination against same-sex couples from a wide range of federal laws.

And what a grand era it is; for decades, human rights and gay lobby groups have been fighting for equal treatment under the law. And finally they have it. Clearly, gay parliamentarians are overjoyed at the opportunities that await them:

[The Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws Superannuation) and Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws General Law Reform) Bills 2008] “deliver on a very important election commitment on an important day for us,” Labor senator and climate change minister Penny Wong, who is openly gay, told parliament.

“They will deliver the sort of equality before the law that same-sex couples have never previously experienced.” […]

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown, who also is openly gay and a long-time campaigner for same-sex rights, congratulated the government.

“This is, indeed, historic legislation and the government is to be congratulated for putting the legislation to this parliament within 12 months of it’s election, to remove a great sway of discrimination laws against same sex couples,”he told parliament.

And then we reach the thirteenth paragraph:

But Senator Brown said discrimination against same-sex couples would only end when they were legally able to wed.

Did I miss something? I thought gay discrimination was over?

I wandered over to the website of the federal Attorney General, Robert McClelland, to see what I could find out. Fortunately, he had an interview with ABC journalist Virginia Trioli this morning, and to his staff’s credit, the transcript is already up. In it, I discovered the following:

Trioli: So how far away then is a proper national discussion about making legal same sex marriage?

McClelland: It won’t be part of this government’s agenda. The Labor Party policy is firm, that marriage is between a man and a woman. So, our reforms have been introduced, but we haven’t amended the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act.

Trioli: That seems to be though—for many gay couple around the country, that’s the greatest discrimination that they feel. You don’t feel, as Attorney-General, inclined to address that?

McClelland: The words used—many gay couples is entirely accurate. Certainly, not all gay couples—not all same sex couples. It’s an issue of controversy within the gay and lesbian community itself.

But from the Government’s point of view, we were elected on the basis of our platform. Our platform is clear. It’s Kevin Rudd’s view, it’s my view, and we won’t be amending the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act.

Semantics aside—under which basis, Northern Territory elders would still be sexually abusing toddlers with impunity, incidentally—it seems that Rudd’s platform differs little from that of John Howard. No, not the John Howard on All Saints. I mean the little guy with the funny eyebrows—Kevin Rudd’s immediate predecessor.

In 2004, the SMH‘s Chris Saliba had this to say about that John Howard:

John Howard may be the doyen of the aspirational middle class, but if you’re gay and aspire to marry and adopt children, then forget it. John Howard would surely balk at being termed homophobic, yet his record on the subject is grim, to say the least. […]

The [then-] Prime Minister elaborated on the matter in a Triple J interview conducted by a group of students in August 2001. Asked where he placed himself on a scale of acceptance of homosexuality, one end being total acceptance and the other total rejection, he replied, “Oh I’d place myself somewhere in the middle. I certainly don’t think you should give the same status to homosexual liaisons as you give to marriage, I don’t.”

Clearly, Kevin Rudd—and the entire Labor caucus, including “openly gay” Penny Wong—feel the same way, and have for some time. In May 2004, now-Housing Minister Nicola Roxon stated on the ABC’s Lateline programme:

Labor has made clear we don’t support gay marriage. Clearly, marriage has a history within Australia already, it is a heterosexual institution.

To my knowledge, no Labor politician has come forward to either refute this, nor have they broken ranks, content merely to hide behind the Pledge and hypocritically bemoan the plight of their gay brothers and sisters.

John Howard may have been homophobic, but he made no bones about where he stood. Kevin Rudd and the Australian Labor Party have not only deceived the Australian electorate in concealing the true extent of their opposition to same-sex discrimination, but have also remorselessly lied to the gay and lesbian voters they count amongst their natural support base.

In two years, when it comes time to elect another federal government, I ask any gay or lesbian readers, or any who count them amongst their friends and family—or simply anyone who hates seeing people being screwed out of happiness for no good reason—to vote for anyone but Labor. Love is a hard enough game, without being lied to and taken for granted.

I leave you with this impassioned clip from MSNBC commentator, Keith Olbermann:

(Thanks to Cr Shayne Mallard, of eCouncillor fame, for bringing this video to my attention.)

(Disclosure: I’m not gay myself, but I have a number of friends who are. Some of them want to marry. Some don’t. Some are even members of the Liberal Party. All of them deserve—even if they choose ultimately not to exercise—the same rights to marriage that the rest of us enjoy.)