Cartoon: By Bill Leak.
Federal Labor would have been more sensible if they had abandoned the idea of gay marriage altogether and adopted the Queensland Labor lead of legalizing gay civil unions. Rather than coming out with a marriage equality proposal, they have adopted a policy that MPs are not bound by and is unlikely to get over the line unless the Coalition allows a conscience vote as well.
It is unlikely that they can actually do much more than show the Coalition up as intolerant unless all Labor MPs and the independents support it. Even showing up the opposition is not going to work here as the demand for a conscience vote clearly indicates that they cannot carry their own membership unanimously, which would be necessary to pass a bill.
The whole exercise is an empty gesture with smoke and mirrors, but only aimed at getting the gay vote without actually doing anything. Gay civil unions might get up, gay marriage won’t at this time.
The whole problem with the issue is that government is involved in regulating relationships, an area where it has no genuine reason to be part of. Marriage is essentially a private consensual agreement between the parties involved and is therefore a civil matter.
When politics gets involved in the process the current controversy is bound to happen. For a start conservative politicians are so full of themselves that they cannot adopt a laissez faire approach to anything without somehow getting the idea that it makes them responsible for what people do in the absence of regulation. The left are no better in this, as they can’t accept that an employer and an employee can come to a voluntary agreement, and both sides regulate voluntary transactions between traders and customers.
To really make marriage equal, it would be necessary for the churches to take part in the ceremony for those who wish to receive their Deity of choice’s blessing, something that in most cases is not going to happen. Any attempt to coerce churches to conduct these services against their stated principles is just as bad as preventing couples from having the right to get together in the first place.
About the only sane policy on the issue is that of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP):
Marriage is simply a formal declaration by two individuals of their commitment to each other. In every sense it is a private matter, based on the personal choice of those involved, and in legal terms comparable to a private contract. The role of government is to record that choice, not regulate or approve it. Having government define, control or sanction marriage, or give advantages (or disadvantages) to people based upon their marital status, is beyond the protection of individual rights. It is certainly not valid for the government to purport to give or withhold approval to marry on the basis of the sexual preference of those involved or the fact that the marriage involves two people of the same gender.In a free society there would be no issues as far as homosexuality is concerned, it would not be relevant.
The LDP does not endorse or reject marriage - it simply regards it as a personal decision that anyone should be entitled to make free of government interference, irrespective of their sexual orientation or lifestyle choice. Thus the LDP preference is not to seek the granting by governments of equal rights for gay marriages, but the withdrawal of government so that it remains a private domain.