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Same-sex marriage (SSM) and civil unions in Australia

2009 to 2011: Discrimination clauses removed
from federal laws. Labor conference discusses SSM.
Civil unions available in ACT.

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This is a continuation from a previous essay.

2009: Advances against sex discrimination in federal laws:

During 2009-MAY, the Statistic Bureau announced that it would start counting same-sex couples in the national census. 1

By mid 2009, the Federal labor government removed same-sex discrimination from almost 100 national laws in such areas as pensions, tax and employment, etc. which had previously been restricted to opposite-sex couples. However, Prime Minister Rudd, who regards himself as a moderate Christian, expressed his total opposition to legalizing same-sex marriage. 8

2009-JUL: SSM discussed at Labor's national conference:

The Australian Labor Party held its annual conference in Sydney, starting on 2009-JUL-30. Rallies in support of same-sex marriage (SSM) were held across Australia on the next day. Prime Minister Rudd said that the party would not change its opposition to SSM. He told Radio Australian:

"We are consistent with the policy that we took to the last election, ... [The party] fully respects the integrity of same-sex relationships." 2

The Labor Party held a debate on same-sex marriages on AUG-01 and rejected the concept. However, they voted to eventually develop a civil union scheme for the entire country. Delegate Anthony Albanese told the conference that this was not his "ideal position." However, the resolution that he proposed and was passed reflected shifting public attitudes. He said:

"History is moving forward on these issues. When I first proposed equality for same-sex couples in superannuation in 1997 that was a controversial issue. Today that is an issue of consensus. I believe that the issue of equality for all is something that is unstoppable. 1

He received overwhelming applause from the other delegates.

A poll reported in 2009-AUG that about 60% of Australian adults support same-sex marriage. 1

2009-NOV-11: Civil Unions legislation amended in Australian Capital Territory (ACT):

The ACT had legalized civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples. However, same-sex couples who registered their union were not permitted to hold a ceremony.

During 2009, the Green Party in the ACT Legislature launched still another attempt to create the type of civil unions that they wanted. It was the Civil Partnerships Amendment Bill. It had provision for public ceremonies.

The ACT amendment was written in an attempt to satisfy federal requirements that such unions not mimic marriage.

Shane Rattenbury, the Greens member of the ACT Legislature who drafted the bill said:

"We understand that this is not same-sex marriage. This legislation is another step along the road to full equality for same-sex couples in Australia, and we are delighted that the assembly has passed it today."

The federal Parliament, which has the power to override legislation passed in the country's two territories, has strongly opposed same-sex marriage, and the ACT legislature has been fighting with them for proper same-sex civil unions since 2006.

Vicki Dunne, a member of the ACT legislature, serves as a shadow attorney-general. She predicted that the federal government would stop the amendment.  She said:

"It is almost certain the Commonwealth will intervene. It still sounds like a marriage and it still feels like a marriage and therefore it probably is a marriage."

However, this time, the Federal Labor government agreed to not veto this bill. The first public civil union ceremony was held on 2009-NOV-25, over the objections of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) -- a conservative Christian lobby group that has specialized in opposing civil unions and same-sex marriage. 7

An adequate system of civil unions having been achieved in ACT, promotion of marriage for same-sex couples began. Attorney-General Robert McClelland said:

"The government believes that marriage is between a man and a woman so it won't amend the marriage act."

Australia's Senate initiated an inquiry, hearing arguments both for and against same-sex marriage.  The Senate committee received more than 20,000 submissions from the public. The responses were opposed to same-sex marriage by a ratio of two to one. 3

2011-JUN: Anglican archbishop issues dire warning about SSM:

Peter Jensen, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, wrote an article in the Church newspaper Southern Cross saying that SSM would redefine:

"one of the indispensable foundations of community. ... Ensuring public honor of same-sex relationships by calling them marriages is an abuse of marriage itself. ... It imposes, through social engineering, a newly minted concept of marriage on a community that understands it in quite another way. ... This claim for a right to be married could open the way for other forms, such as polygamous marriages or perhaps even marriage between immediate family members. ... Ministers of the Gospel will find it increasingly difficult to teach Christian sexual ethics … since what they say will be contrary to what the state says."

He referred to "Christian sexual ethics" as a single belief system. In reality, there are many such systems of sexual ethics in Christianity. Conservative and liberal Christians have developed many different and opposing ethical systems.

It is probable that the Anglican Church's main problem will not be with the government's statements on same-sex marriage, but with the public's position. A recent poll showed 60% support for SSM in Australia, a number that continues to rise.

Alex Greenwich, spokesperson for Australian Marriage Equality said that the Archbishop's predictions of polygamy and state-sanctioned incest have not been seen in any of the countries that have allowed SSM. 6

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2011-AUG-16: Poll finds most Christians in Australia support same-sex marriage:

A national Galaxy Research poll found that most Christians in the country believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Results were:

  • Among all adults:
    • 60% support SSM. This compares to a similar poll in 2010-OCT which found that 62% supported SSM. The difference is within the margin of error. Both are a major increase from 2004 when support was only 30%. 11
    • 5% of supporters have switched from "agree" to "strongly agree since 2010."
    • A similar percentage switched from "strongly disagree" to "disagree."
    • 72% of women and 47% of males favor SSM. This is a much greater difference between the genders than is found in the U.S. and Canada.

  • Among Christians:
    • 53% of adults who identify as Christians support SSM.
    • 41% oppose SSM.
    • 6% had no opinion or did not answer.

  • Among non-Christians:
    • 67% support SSM.
    • 30% oppose SSM
    • 3% had no opinion or did not answer.

These data are reasonably close to polling results in the U.S.

Galaxy Research stated that 1,060 persons were polled. Margin of error is ±3 percentage points. 4,5

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This topic continues on the next essay

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Quotations used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Australia votes to recognize same-sex unions" AFP, 2009-AUG-01, at: http://www.google.com/
  2. "Labor won't be shifting on gay marriage: Rudd," Courier Mail, 2009-JUL-29, at: http://www.news.com.au/
  3. Patrick B. Craine, "Australian Territory approves same-sex civil ceremonies," LifeSiteNews.com Emailed report , 2009-NOV-11.
  4. "Poll finds a majority of Australian Christians support same-sex marriage," Australian Marriage Equality, 2011-AUG-16, at: http://www.australianmarriageequality.com/
  5. "Same-sex marriage and religion," Galaxy Research, 2011-AUG, at: http://www.australianmarriageequality.com  This is a PDF file.
  6. "Australian bishop warns on gay marriage," UPI, 2011-JUN-10, at: http://www.upi.com/
  7. "Recognition of same-sex unions in Australia: Australian Capital Territory," Wikipedia, as on 2013-MAY-26, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
  8. Simon Lauder, "Pell makes stand against gay marriage," ABC Local Radio, 2007-OCT-30, at: http://www.abc.net.au/

Copyright © 2009 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2009-MAY
Latest update: 2013-JUN-07
Compiled by: B.A. Robinson

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