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Fiery snippet from Greens NSW history in support of marriage equality

Lee Rhiannon 1 Nov 2013

Marriage equality legislation has had a turbulent history in NSW and not always because of the actions of the conservatives. I pulled this out of my files from when I was a Greens NSW MP and spokesperson for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex issues. In 2005 I introduced a marriage equality bill into the NSW parliament. 

This is a report on what happened:

The campaign for marriage equality has had many twists and turns, with firey debates sometimes spilling into our own movement. One of the most controversial was in Sydney in 2005. 

Then state Greens MP and lgbti spokesperson Lee Rhiannon introduced a private members bill for marriage equality into the NSW Upper House. The main campaign event at the Newtown Hotel was described by one participant: “To say there were ‘fireworks’ is like saying there was a minor ruckus on the Titanic”.

This part of the campaign had kicked off in April 2005 in Tasmania when Greens MP Nick McKim introduced into the Tasmanian Parliament a marriage equality bill. It was backed by the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group and after the first stage of the debate the bill was sent to an inquiry.

Then in May of that year the NSW Greens LGBTI Working Group decided to introduce a similar bill in NSW. Nick McKim flew to Sydney for the campaign launch with Lee Rhiannon – a press conference and public meeting. 

Ray Goodlass the then Convenor of the Greens NSW LGBTI Working Group was the MC for the event at the Newtown Hotel. Speakers included Nick, Rodney Croome from the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group, Luke Gahan from Australian Marriage Equality, Farida Iqbal from Community Action Against Homophobia and Lee. 

No one at the event was opposed to marriage equality. The stated criticism from what Queer Penguin called Team 2 was that the Greens had “not consulted the community”. This was a ridiculous allegation with an active working group that had long been part of the community driving the campaign. 

Lee and Nick were bombarded with insults about their decision to move the marriage equality bill. 

Sadly this was old fashioned politics with Labor loyalists in the community furious that the Greens had introduced a Bill that would put their MPs on the spot. 

Dayenu, Sydney’s Jewish GLBTI Group  wrote up details about Lee’s Bill. 

Lee Rhiannon’s Advisor, Kristian Bowell, explains the reasoning behind the Bills, “The Greens sexuality policy advocates full legal equality regardless of sexual orientation.  Same-sex marriage is a pillar of that equality. Given the Federal Government's opposition to same-sex marriage, it is appropriate to explore the possibility of sexuality law reform at a state level.”

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