As I sit here planning out my weekend, I note in my calendar that I’m meant to be shooting the Rally for Equal Marriage Rights at the Victorian state library tomorrow afternoon, and the sad question that lingers in my head is, “should I even bother?”
Some things have changed since the August rally: there’s a new version of the same Federal government; several Labor power-brokers have called for marriage equality; and a motion has been passed calling on MP’s to discuss marriage equality with their electorates.
Now, I’m not sure for what reason I think wasting tape on this exercise will be pointless; there are two conceivable near-term outcomes: either the issue will be shelved — and for quite some time — or mounting internal and international pressure will force Labor to permit a conscience vote in the House in the coming week that may pass, or may fail.
Will marching down Swanston Street one more time have any influence on either of those possibilities? Probably not, sadly.
The issue has been in the media spotlight for a few weeks now, and I think it’s fairly safe to say that everybody’s already made up their minds, for or against. I suspect that at this point it’s a dead heat, as is the split between the two relatively similar national political ideologies. If forced to advocate or reject the notion of marriage equality, I would expect around half of Australians would choose to support it, and half would choose to “reject” it, if only because there’s no “I don’t give a hairy rat’s arse” option — in which case most of the side against would evaporate.
This is the main reason why, politically speaking, it would be better to just change the marriage act and be done with it. Less people are going to complain about marriage equality than those who will continue to think that Australia lagging behind Canada in these matters is embarrassing. It’s not just marriage equality that’s the point of obtaining it: a large segment of the population see it as part of an overall “package” that includes relaxed immigration laws and better relations with Indigenous Australians.
Now, as a Canadian I admit I have a bit of a conflict of interest in seeing my marriage to my Australian same-sex partner federally recognised. Although my wife’s family whole-heartedly recognises our marriage — and would never interfere in next-of-kin issues — I cannot say the same for the Government, and that worries me. My wife ending up in hospital unconscious while I am unable to be at her bedside because I am not recognised as part of her immediate family is a scenario I will not enjoy, should it happen.
Now, yes, despite what the Marriage Act says, hospital staff are likely to look at my interdependency visa and our British Columbia Certificate of Marriage and make an ‘exception’, but I do not want to rely on their ‘charity’ and nor should I. We are married. End of.
That said, will attending and taping another rally make any difference? Attending might feel good; on the other hand, my cynical side might kick in and the event may end up feeling sad and despairing. Recording the rally for posterity is good for the historical record, but from an advocacy standpoint I can’t really get the footage to air fast enough to likely make any difference to the aforementioned possible outcomes, nor would it be likely to change any more minds.
Has the momentum stopped? Maybe. Will another round of rallies get it going again? From the bottom of my heart I hope so, but I fear not. I think the Government’s PR spin-machine has done enough for the moment to satisfy that upper middle-class voting bloc who feel warm and fuzzy lending a tempered amount of support to the Greens’ overall platform, and the issue will go back on the shelf for another year, perhaps two.
I would love to be proven wrong, though, and for that reason I think I will attend, and I will film it. I’ve always bet against the house — even when I’m convinced the house holds all the right cards — on principle. So, let us ‘give it another go’ people, and even if the point of the exercise is moot, at least it will seem as if we’re doing something — if not for them, then for ourselves.
Hope to see you there.
Rally for Equal Marriage Rights: November 20th, 1pm, State Library, Melbourne.