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Eclipsing the religious right

By Rodney Croome - posted Friday, 4 May 2012

Historians will look back at this year’s two parliamentary inquiries into marriage equality as the beginning of the end of the religious right's disproportionate influence on Australian politics.

On April 13th the Senate marriage equality inquiry announced it had received 75,000 submissions with 44,000 or almost 60% in favour.

As if to confirm this wasn't a fluke, figures for the House of Reps inquiry were released ten days later: 277,000 survey forms were sent in with 177,000 or 64% in favour.


To put this in perspective, the next largest parliamentary inquiry on any other issue was about the 1997 Northern Territory euthanasia bill. It received 12,500 submissions. The 2009 climate change inquiry received 8000 and the Sydney airport noise inquiry 5000.

No longer can politicians declare there is general indifference to marriage equality or that parliament is wasting its time debating the issue.

That said, I was astounded by the pro-marriage equality figures.

For most of my career advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights the religious right has always been able to muster far larger responses to parliamentary inquiries.

This time around they even made a special effort, with Victoria's Catholic Bishops calling on 80,000 parishioners to respond to the Reps inquiry - a dubious use of their authority which failed dismally.

So what has changed?


Marriage equality is obviously engaging a large numbers of Australians who would not normally take part in a gay rights campaign.

I suspect this is because it speaks to heterosexual people about the kind of nation they want to live in as much as the narrower question of how gay people should be treated.

This is reflected in the words of those cultural icons who have recently spoken in favour of marriage equality.

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About the Author

Rodney Croome is a spokesperson for Equality Tasmania and national advocacy group, just.equal. He who was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003 for his LGBTI advocacy.

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All articles by Rodney Croome

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