VALENTINE’S DAY is traditionally a time when heterosexual couples exchange syrupy love messages but a new television advertisement plans to switch the focus to gay marriage.
The television campaign, to be launched on February 14 by political activist organisation GetUp! and same-sex lobby group Australian Marriage Equality, will carry an emotional appeal for viewers to understand the importance of marriage to the gay and lesbian community.
”Valentine’s Day is a day when many people think about love and relationships,” said Alex Greenwich, spokesman for Australian Marriage Equality (AME).
”It’s the perfect day to … send the message that all love is equal and all relationships should be treated equally.”
The television campaign, ”Marriage Matters”, which will run throughout the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, has been timed partly in anticipation of an attack from the ”cashed-up religious right” in the lead-up to the ALP’s National Conference in December where the Labor Party plans to reassess its stance on gay marriage, Mr Greenwich said.
Christian Democrats candidate for Sydney Peter Madden angered the gay and lesbian community last week with his call to move Mardi Gras off the streets. Speaking to The Sun-Herald, Mr Madden made it clear he would never support gay marriage.
”I’m totally against it – marriage is between a man and a woman,” Mr Madden said. ”It would begin to change the way we see family and undermine children’s understanding of right and wrong.”
But Mr Greenwich said the AME did not want to cause controversy in the community with its new advertising campaign.
”It’s not a confrontational advertisement at all,” Mr Greenwich said.
”It’s about family and about putting a face to this issue.”
Last month, the AME assured church leaders that if same sex marriage is legalised in Australia, churches will still have the freedom to refuse to marry a gay couple.
Meanwhile, a human rights advocate has warned that Australia risks becoming an ”anachronistic human rights island” if it doesn’t move quickly towards recognising same sex marriage equality.
At the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva last week, Norway recommended that Australia should amend the federal Marriage Act to recognise same-sex marriage. The recommendation was made during a review of Australia’s human rights performance by 50 UN member states.
Phil Lynch, executive director at the Human Rights Law Resource Centre, said Australia is lagging behind other countries on the issue of ending discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity. Norway, along with Canada, Spain, South Africa, Sweden and Portugal, are among the countries that have already implemented laws to allow same-sex couples to marry.
”[This review] creates a further imperative for Australia to walk the talk about the values we espouse about equality,” Mr Lynch said.
At the end of last year, a number of federal MPs pledged to consult their electorates about their views on same sex marriage. So far politicians are reporting mixed results.
Graham Perrett, Federal Member for Moreton, said that preliminary responses from the surveys suggest the community is evenly divided on the issue.
”We’re getting the impression that we’re surveying the extremely for or against,” said Mr Perrett. ”It’s been widely circulated with those passionate about the issue.”