The recent knifing of Tony Abbott by Malcolm Turnbull held a brief glimpse of hope for marriage equality in Australia. Unfortunately, the change of PM did not bring any change of policy, and the Liberal Party's homophobic agenda has remained the same.
Turnbull professes to personally support marriage equality, but has asked the rainbow community to wait for a plebiscite until after the federal elections. This amounts to a position worse than Abbott who was dragged kicking and screaming to agree to a plebiscite together with the elections.
We would win a plebiscite hands down, but the community rightly demands no more delays — to just put one of the four marriage equality bills in front of parliament right now, and pass it.
Delaying tactics on equal marriage rights, however, are just the tip of the iceberg of the systematic oppression faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) people today.
LGBTQI people are increasingly winning acceptance in the broader community, but discrimination still runs rife in all of the key institutions of society — education, health, the law, the media, family, church and state.
Seventy two per cent of Australians support marriage equality — so why is the government holding out on such a simple, popular demand?
The basic economic cornerstone of capitalism is the nuclear family unit. The family unit is a means of securing unpaid labour in the home (childcare, cooking, cleaning, caring responsibilities) and it relies on strict gender roles that ensure that this unpaid work falls predominantly on women. This is a big money-saver for the rich 1%.
The most recent study released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found “the value of unpaid work — 91% of it unpaid household work — was about $261 billion in 1997, equivalent to about 48% of Australia's gross domestic product … Unpaid household work contributed $237 billion (or 91%) to the total value of unpaid work in 1997. Females accounted for 65% of the value of unpaid household work.”
Marriage equality is one step along the road to redefining the way we have relationships and live our lives. Broadening the definition of marriage leads into questioning its meaning and its entire premise. This shakes things up within the family structure.
LGBTQI partnerships overwhelmingly have a more equal distribution of household labour, and transgender and intersex people can transcend gender roles, both of which challenge the concept of what is “women's work” and “men's work”.
This also highlights the need for equality of access to adoption. Recognising LGBTQI relationships as valid, and treating them as equal to heterosexual relationships, necessitates ending discrimination in adoption services.
Equal marriage and adoption rights also makes a stronger case for a welfare system which provides more support and takes pressure off the family unit, because rather than just one section of society being expected to carry out the household labour, everyone takes a share.
The reliance on strict gender roles is also the source of transgender oppression. Rejecting traditional notions of gender is a challenge to the system. Self-definition of gender identity is a basic democratic right and must be recognised, legally and through funded gender-transition services.
More than just basic human rights, full LGBTQI equality sets the scene for equality for democratic rights across the board.
The ruling class trembles at politically independent and self-organising social movements. The movements that fight the oppression of women, lesbians and gay men, trans and intersex people, people with HIV and sex workers, through mass action, public demonstrations, lobbying, voting and by building alliances with broader working class, feminist and anti-capitalist movements challenge the core of what the system rests on — the nuclear family unit.
Socialist Alliance campaigns for:
• Full marriage equality;
• Full rights for transgender and intersex people;
• Full adoption rights;
• Full, publicly-funded medical services for gender transition; and
• Fully-funded school programs for non-judgmental sex education and anti-violence campaigns.
[This is the fourth in a series of articles detailing the policies and platform the Socialist Alliance will be taking to the federal election.]