Gays don’t really need to get married. Some would just quite like to.

The act itself is less important than the permission to do it. It’s a sign from the leaders and institutions of the land that they count, the same as anyone else. The symbolism matters.

Kevin Rudd understood that when he apologised to the Aboriginal stolen generations. Nobody really believed Parliament’s regret would mark any tangible improvement to the lives of indigenous people. But the words righted a wrong, as much as they could, and shifted the agenda from the past to the future.

The politics around gay marriage attracts more cynicism. Labor’s push to allow same-sex marriage in Tasmania reeks of polling desperation by an out-of-favour government, as Crikey pointed out on Monday. “This whole social reform exercise in Tasmania is about damage minimisation,” political correspondent Bruce Montgomery wrote from Hobart.

Now it’s about dollars. The Mercury reported on the potential economic impact loved-up homos-xuals could have on the Apple Isle. The ACT government said it could follow Tasmania’s lead to chase the “pink dollar”.

Votes and cash. Never that it’s simply the right thing to do. That it sends a message that they count.

That’s politics for you.