Outlining a Progressive Future

Fight for Legal Equality for Same-Sex Couples Escalates: Need to Take it Further!

On the 8th of August and the 28th of November thousands of queer activists took to the streets in two ‘National Day’s of Action’ on same-sex marriage. These NDAs are an important step for the queer movement in Australia. Taking to the streets is an important way to take action one we should fully embrace. However, at the same time we must be wary that we don’t create a movement that is too narrowly focused on same-sex marriage.

Heading to the streets in this way is a fantastic thing. Whilst we cannot ignore the great work that has been done on the ground level for queer rights, the queer movement has lacked a nationally co-ordinated mass action effort. These NDAs give us the opportunity to create such a movement and in doing so empower activists, build networks, create alliances and provide a more visible face to an ever growing movement.

However, at the same time, we must be wary that these NDAs don’t narrow the focus of the queer movement solely onto same-sex marriage. Whilst legal equality for same-sex couples is an important step, it is just a step, and one that cannot and should not be separated from the other changes we need in society.

Focusing solely on legal equality limits our ability to challenge key social institutions, such as marriage. Marriage, as a key part of the heteronormative society, is for many an oppressive institution. It defines how relationships should work and then punishes those who don’t fit the norm. We therefore must challenge the way this institution operates and the effect it has on society. Otherwise, we risk a scenario where success is defined through the ability of some to enter heteronormative society/institutions. This will leave many, who don’t fit into these institutions behind.

Leading on from this, a same-sex marriage focus can ignore many other important issues. Whether it is sexual/gender identity based violence, structural poverty or a whole array of other issues, the queer movement should be addressing a whole lot more than legal equality for same sex couples. Queer people are extremely diverse and with this diversity comes a broad range of issues that require attention. If we ignore this diversity, we not only neglect many important issues, but also risk isolating people from the queer movement.

In the long run these issues could be divisive. If we fail to challenge dominant social institutions or tackle other problems, the queer movement risks becoming one that instead of challenging the heteronormative society, accepts it and aims to become part of it. This will not only isolate many people, but will also see a movement that collapses after same-sex marriage is won as organisers and activists believe that queer liberation has been achieved.

As long as legal rights exist, everyone should have access to them. However, that doesn’t mean we should accept them as they are, nor settle for acceptance to them as our only goal. We should fight for legal equality, but we must make sure that such a fight doesn’t let us lose sight of other issues or weaken the queer movement in the long run. The NDAs are giving queer activists a great opportunity to build networks and create co-ordinated actions across the country and I encourage everyone to continue participating in them. But let’s make sure we use these opportunities to strengthen the movement to fully challenge the oppressive nature of the heteronormative society and to create real, long lasting change. Our movement and our society depend on it.


December 7, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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