The Marriage Equality Blindside That Really Needs To Happen
By Samuel Leighton-Dore
In a game of numbers, there’s always someone on the bottom; someone ready to break free of the projected heierarchy and make a game-changing move.
For instance, if Australian politics were a season of Survivor, this particular episode would involve the core alliance of masc heterosexual ex-NFL stars conceding defeat and turning to the bottom-of-the-ladder self-confessed geeks and/or retirees to gain the numbers needed to survive tribal council.
This desperate move suddenly puts our beloved geeks/retirees in an unusually advantageous position.
After weeks of stoking the fire, gathering wood and contemplating inevitable elimination (after all, the jocks have gone on record stating they’ll never negotiate with those outside of their alliance), the small group of game-passionate underdogs are now able to leverage their numbers (however low) to demand the things they want (ie a final 4 deal) which would’ve days earlier felt impossible.
Bizarrely, this is precisely the scenario our Australian politicians now find themselves in as they contemplate the very real prospect of negotiating a minority government with independents. Whether Labor or Liberal will be at the helm of such a deal largely remains to be seen, but you’d better believe that everyone involved is scrambling to avoid having their parliamentary torch extinguished.
Just like that, the independents/cross-benchers have gone from holding minimal power to holding all the cards.
Much like the game of Survivor, in politics you should always expect the unexpected.
It makes for riveting (if not slightly unsettling) viewing.
As the groundwork for negotiations begins prematurely behind closed doors this week, LGBTQI activists are now taking it upon themselves to ensure a free vote on marriage equality is prioritised by independents and sufficiently leveraged as a condition to forming a minority government.
A petition started yesterday is urging the cross-benchers (our tribal outcasts) to whip out one of their hidden immunity idols and negotiate a marriage equality free vote in place of the proposed plebiscite.
The petition says:
“Newly-elected cross benchers have the power to stop a plebiscite on marriage equality and secure a free vote. We could see marriage equality in weeks, not months or years.
Cross benchers could be critical for ensuring marriage equality is voted on in parliament without a costly, divisive and damaging plebiscite.”
The petition has been launched by a new community campaign group called just.equal, which has been established to promote community based activism to address legal and social discrimination faced by the LGBTI community.
“Through engaging and involving individuals and communities just.equal wants to inspire every day Australians to become champions of ending prejudice and discrimination, ensuring that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people are embraced as equal members of the Australian community.” Founder of just.equal, Ivan Hinton-Teoh says.
“I’m alarmed that attacks against Australia’s LGBTI community seem to be gathering momentum with Safe Schools targeted, transgender rights attacked, new anti-LGBTI groups appearing and a marriage equality plebiscite still looming.”
Despite the votes still being counted, despite there still being a handful of seats in doubt, despite the right-leaning tendencies of many of the independents, sources believe there is a sufficient number of elected cross-benchers who believe firmly enough in a free vote on marriage equality to make a potentially game-winning move for it.
If this happens to be the case, there’s still a glimmer of hope for marriage equality activists regardless of the eventual outcome.
“Along with other organisations working towards equal dignity of all Australians, just.equal will work towards leveraging the enormous support for LGBTI people that exists in the wider community to ensure our elected officials hear us.”
I suppose the question now becomes whether the independents are going to play it safe or take full advantage of their unlikely position and push for change.
And, if he does happen to reach the numbers to form a minority government, will Malcolm Turnbull be willing to eat a slice of humble pie and take notice? Or will his seemingly unfounded confidence/ego be his ultimate undoing?
As one Survivor outcast reflected to Jeff Probst at tribal council recently, the moment you feel comfortable, the moment you feel safe – that’s when you know you’re in trouble.
That’s when you need to listen.