I wrote in June about the Delegate conference – it’s two days when job reps from around the state meet; network; hear presentations from a wide range of political, industrial, union and inspirational speakers; are addressed by our Executive and officials; celebrate our achievements; and, importantly, vote on resolutions that help map out the road ahead.

Resolutions are generated by members at a particular site, submitted and seconded by reps, and addressed during the conference – the mover will speak to the resolution, then delegates may ask questions, and the resolution is voted on by a show of hands. Each resolution may pass, be defeated, or be amended and passed. The resolutions include items members want included or amended in the next Enterprise Agreement log of claims, which form the basis for negotiations; they may also address wider issues about the direction of the union.

This year a resolution was moved that ANF (Vic. branch) support the campaign for marriage equality. I saw at least one vote against the motion, which was passed by an overwhelming majority of delegates. This resolution was briefly reported in this month’s edition of On The Record, the state-based supplement magazine of the federal ANF publication, the Australian Nursing Journal, and in full through the most recent e-letter:

Equal marriage: The right to marry the person they love if they choose to do so…

ANF (Vic Branch) has a responsibility, as highlighted in our mission statement, to raise members’ awareness of social issues and help cultivate the action required to achieve change for the better.

In Australia same-sex civil marriages are prohibited and only civil partnerships are available to same-sex couples. In a democratic society everyone should be equal before the law. This means opening up civil marriages to all couples, gay and heterosexual, without discrimination.

The right of all people in our community to marry the person they love, regardless of gender or sexual orientation is a matter of social justice, human rights and equality and as such is important to ANF (Vic Branch).

ANF members who are in same-sex relationships and members who are the parents of children in a same-sex relationship and unable to marry under current legislation, have asked the ANF (Vic Branch) for support and clarification of ANF policy.

At the 2012 Delegates Conference a resolution was emphatically passed on equal marriage: That the ANF (Vic Branch) develop a policy or position statement in support of equal marriage and to advise members of the policy and the rationale behind it.

As a result ANF (Vic Branch) is developing a formal policy/position and is seeking members’ views on this issue. It is important that a comprehensive number of members are involved so ANF is asking members to indicate whether or not they support same sex couples in our community having the right to marry the person they love should they choose to do so?

Please respond to the survey [link disabled] and remind other ANF (Vic Branch) members to do so by sharing the survey link via Facebook, Twitter or email.

For members and reps who weren’t at the conference it was the first they heard of any of the resolutions – and, as posted on our Facebook page, a couple of them are not happy about the resolution.

I’ve posted below my response to the objection that ANF ought not

be involved in making policies or position statements about gay marriage. The institution of marriage is clearly between husband and wife. ANF is a nursing federation and as a member of 33 years believes it should stick to nursing issues. That is where I want my money and support to stay… As marriage has originated in the church let that be where it stays. I do not understand why ANF needs to be involved. There are so many others nursing related issues without getting distracted by this debate.

ANF, on both state and federal levels, supports and has policies on many human welfare issues that aren’t directly related to nursing – this Thursday I marched under the ANF banner in support of the publicly funded vocational education sector, protesting cuts to TAFE funding. I would argue, however, that while there is persecution of one segment of our population, while the LGBTI community has significantly higher rates of depression and suicide and self-harm than the general population, this is very much a nursing issue.

I was at the Delegates Conference this year, and voted (with an overwhelming, but not total, majority) in favour of the resolution, which is a statement of support for same-sex marriage, and not a commitment to fund a campaign.

I know I don’t speak for all members – we’re such a diverse group that nobody could – but I believe I speak for many when I say that I believe my role as a nurse extends beyond my job to advocacy for the wider community, and for those members of the nursing and midwifery community who are currently unable to marry because of the gender of the person they love.

In addition, for those who choose it, to the religious aspect of marriage, it has secular, legal weight. It is this aspect that the LGBTI community want to access. Marriage has already changed significantly – in the West the idea of arranged marriage, which was common for centuries, is rare; the Old Testament laws about widowhood are not only not legal now but would be considered abhorrent to many; and marriages long pre-date not only Christianity but monotheism and possibly religion altogether.

I appreciate that the opinions of others differ significantly from mine, and I respect that their positions are considered and deeply felt. As I said, I don’t speak for anyone but myself – and my position, too, is considered and deeply felt. As I did when the motion came up for delegate vote in June, I agree with the ANF (Vic. branch) resolution in support of marriage equality.