Brian Greig OAM, March 2016

It is disingenuous for Senator Penny Wong (February) to state that “the path to full equality was blocked in 2004 when the Howard government amended the Marriage Act”.

The Labor Party supported that change, albeit there were an extraordinary 29 abstentions, including Wong, across the Senate on the final vote. Labor also supported a government motion to guillotine the allocated debating time and gag discussion on the bill. I was in the chamber on that awful day, railing against the amendment on behalf of the Australian Democrats and acting as whip for the “noes”.

Had Labor joined with the Democrats, the Greens and other crossbenchers, Howard’s anti-homosexual legislation would likely have failed. Subsequent Labor prime ministers, Kevin Rudd (version one) and Julia Gillard, continued to oppose reform.

I raise this not to be petty but to ensure that the history of marriage equality in Australia is not whitewashed. Australia is not in this situation because of Howard but because of homophobia. This prejudice is not a polemic between Liberal and Labor or between Christians and the secular world.

For the sake of civil rights, decency and precedent, and to save $160 million on a non-binding plebiscite, this issue must be dealt with by a free vote in parliament, and soon.

Brian Greig OAM (Democrats senator 1999–2005)
Perth, WA