At last year’s Midsumma Pride March, I booed the Liberal Party – and was arrested for doing so. Despite my arrest, I plan to boo them again this coming weekend. Here’s why.
At the Midsumma Carnival a couple of weeks earlier, Liberals had handed out a flyer titled, ‘Getting it done: Victorian Liberals have led every step of the way.’ In a video filmed at the carnival (no longer available on Facebook), federal Liberal MP Tim Wilson described the flyer as ‘highlighting the long history of achievement the Liberals have had in achieving equality for same-sex couples, gay and lesbian people, across this great nation.’
In the same video, then Liberal candidate for the seat of Albert Park, Andrew Bond, told viewers to ‘stick with the Liberal Party because the Liberal Party has led the way on these issues. It’s something the Liberal Party should be very proud of.’
On viewing, I almost fell off my chair. The Liberals have a long history of leading the way on LGBT issues? Had I unknowingly slipped through a wormhole into a parallel universe? According to my recollection, the only thing the party has is a long history of blocking almost every single advance in LGBT rights in Australia over at the last three decades at least.
Reading the brochure, I discovered that it was really just a creative reinterpretation of history designed to portray the Liberals as socially liberal, and thus the defender of LGBT people and their rights. Most of the ‘achievements’ it listed were actually reforms introduced by a Labor government with Liberal support – hardly ‘leading the way’. (The brochure even had the gall to describe John Howard’s government as ‘leading the anti-discrimination push’. Now that’s what I call an imaginative retelling of history!)
What the brochure didn’t include are all the times the Liberal Party, both nationally and in Victoria, actually hindered and obstructed advances in LGBT rights. In an effort to bring some balance to history, and to their presence at Pride this weekend, here’s a list of some of those other Liberal Party ‘achievements’.
Timeline of Liberal Party ‘Achievements’ for LGBT Rights
1992: The Liberal Party opposes the Keating (Labor) government’s decision to allow same-sex attracted men and women to serve in the armed forces.
2003: Liberal PM John Howard warns that marriage equality threatens ‘the survival of the species’.
2003: The Howard government blocks same-sex partners of military personnel from receiving benefits available to opposite-sex partners, then ignores a ruling by the UN Human Rights Committee (Young v. Australia) requiring it to pay a pension to the same-sex partner of a veteran of the Second World War.
2004: The Howard (Liberal) government passes the Marriage Amendment Act 2004, expressly prohibiting marriage equality in Australia and denying recognition of same-sex marriages lawfully entered into overseas.
2004: The Howard (Liberal) government initiates a policy of refusing to issue ‘Certificates of No Impediment to Marriage’ to Australians wishing to enter into same-sex marriages overseas, thus preventing many couples from getting married outside Australia. This policy was finally ended by the Gillard (Labor) government in 2012.
2006–2007: The Howard (Liberal) government twice repeals bills passed by the ACT government that were intended to establish civil unions for same-sex couples.
2007: The Howard (Liberal) government introduces the Family Law (Same Sex Adoption) Bill designed to prohibit same-sex couples from adopting children. The bill was never passed as the government lost the 2007 federal election.
2008: The Brumby (Labor) government in Victoria introduces the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Bill to make IVF technology available to same-sex couples. All Liberal members of the Victorian parliament vote against it.
2010: Leader of the (Liberal) Opposition Tony Abbott says he feels ‘threatened’ by homosexuality and that LGBT people challenge ‘the right order of things’.
2011: The Baillieu (Liberal) government in Victoria repeals provisions of the Equal Opportunity Act, thereby expanding the circumstances in which discrimination against LGBT people is permitted.
2012: All federal Liberal MPs and senators, including Malcolm Turnbull and Dean Smith, vote against a private member’s bill to introduce marriage equality. (One Liberal senator, Sue Boyce, chose to abstain and so was absent from the Senate chamber.)
2013: The Liberal Party opposes amendments to the federal Sex Discrimination Act designed to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in aged-care services.
2013: All Liberal senators, except one (Sue Boyce), vote against a bill to allow recognition of same-sex marriages performed overseas.
2013: The Rudd (Labor) government promises to introduce a marriage-equality bill within 100 days if re-elected. The Coalition wins the election and does nothing on marriage equality for four years.
2013: The Abbott (Liberal) government challenges the ACT’s marriage equality law in the High Court, leading to the annulment of 31 same-sex marriages.
2015: Under rising pressure to allow a free vote on marriage equality, Liberal PM Tony Abbott announces his plan for a national plebiscite on the issue – a tactic promoted by right-wing homophobes within the party.
2015: The Andrews (Labor) government in Victoria amends the Adoption Act to allow same-sex couples to adopt children. However, Liberal members of the upper house vote to allow adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples.
2016: The Turnbull (Liberal) government cuts all federal funding to the Safe Schools Coalition, a program designed to reduce bullying of LGBT students.
2016: The Andrews (Labor) government attempts to amend the Equal Opportunity Act to reduce the circumstances in which discrimination against LGBT people is permitted. However, Liberal members of the Victorian upper house vote to block the reform.
2016: The Andrews (Labor) government also attempts to amend the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act to remove the need for surgery before a person can change the gender on their birth certificate. However, once again, Liberal members of the Victorian upper house vote to block the amendment.
2017: The Turnbull (Liberal) government spends $80.5 million on the unnecessary and divisive Marriage Law Postal Survey, exposing vulnerable and young people across the country to a campaign of hateful, homophobic lies and misinformation.
2018: Victorian Liberal leader Matthew Guy announces that the Safe Schools program will be abolished if the Coalition wins the state election in November 2018. (They didn’t win.)
Clearly, as this timeline shows, rather than ‘leading the way,’ the Liberal Party has been the single greatest obstacle to advances in LGBT rights in both Victoria and the country at large.
This is the reason I chose to, and will continue to, boo the Liberal Party at the Midsumma Pride March.
I cannot in good conscience stand there and watch them stroll by, smiling and waving, as if none of this timeline occurred, as if they have been great friends to the LGBT community. On the contrary, they need to understand that, after everything they’ve done over so many decades, not everyone in the community welcomes their inclusion at Pride.
Finally, I feel the need to mention that while Labor has generally performed better than the Liberals when it comes to LGBT rights, its own record has hardly been exemplary. One can point to countless examples of obstruction and inaction by Labor on many LGBT issues. So if anyone wants to go along and boo Labor at future Pride marches, I can perfectly understand where they’re coming from.
So this weekend, I’ll be booing the Liberals. I hope many others will join me and do the same.
Image: Liberals at the Pride March 2018