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

2012-JUN to 2013-JUN: SSM activity in federal
House & Senate. Pressure from New Zealand

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This is a continuation from a previous essay.

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2012-JUN-25: Senate committee backs marriage equality:

The federal Senate's Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee received 46,000 submissions from the public in support of marriage equality; that was almost 60% of all submissions. In their report, they stated that it is:

"overwhelmingly apparent ... [from submissions that same-sex couples] feel that the current definition of marriage in the Marriage Act discriminates against them because they are denied the fundamental social, cultural, psychological, administrative and legal benefits that marriage can provide. ... As a result, and on balance, the committee strongly supports legislation to provide for marriage equality in Australia, on the basis that it will remove discrimination in this important area for same-sex couples."

"In saying this, the committee acknowledges the significance of the institution of marriage and the place that it holds in Australian society. The committee considers that allowing all couples access to marriage – regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity – will only strengthen the institution of marriage, and increase its value and importance."

By a 4 to 2 vote, the committee recommended that Bill 2010, the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill be passed with a clause that protects the right of those clergy who wish to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to marry them.

Alex Greenwich, National Convener for Australian Marriage Equality said:

"This is a watershed moment in the marriage equality debate because Coalition, Labor and Greens members of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee have joined forces to help progress a reform a majority of Australians want. ... This report has given voice to the very powerful conservative case for same-sex marriage, and has also called on Mr Abbott to allow members of the Coalition the opportunity to vote for reform and express their support for marriage equality as conservatives." 1

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2012-SEP-20: Same-sex marriage bill killed:

The federal House of Representatives rejected the Labor Party's SSM bill on SEP-19 by a vote of 98 to 42.

The Senate also rejected the bill on SEP-20 by a vote of 41 to 26.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott said:

"I think we should let the dust settle before we come back to it. ... But I think that really does settle the matter of gay marriage certainly at least for the life of this parliament and I suspect for longer."

Penny Wong of the Labor party said:

"Sadly, the Opposition was not allowed a conscience vote on this very important issue and I believe that, had Mr Abbott shown some leadership and allowed a free vote, the result may have been much different."

Rodney Croome, spokesperson for Australian Marriage Equality noted that one encouraging factor with the vote is that the number of Senators who voted in favor of SSM increased by a factor of four since a similar vote in 2009.

Liberal MP Warren Entsch has written a civil partnership bill for submission to the House and Senate. He said that it is for:

"... two persons who are in a relationship as a couple, regardless of their sex, and who meet the eligibility criteria." 2,3

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2013-MAY-16: Pressure to legalize SSM in Australia may have reached a tipping point:

The legalizing of SSM by the adjacent country, New Zealand, is putting pressure on Australia to follow the same course. Hundreds of Australian same-sex couples are planning to fly to New Zealand and marry. One couple is Emma Mansel and Sarah Louise Hopkins. Emma said:

"Just knowing somewhere in my heart that we are allowed to get married somewhere else in the world, even though it's not in Australia, it's a very special thing. And we just want to have that respect and understanding."

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, sponsor of the SSM bill, said:

"Having to leave their marriage at the customs gate just isn't fair. We need to change the legislation to ensure that we recognize the marriages of couples, whether they are from New Zealand, Canada, [or] New York."

Rodney Croome, president of Australians for Marriage Equality, said:

"It's been estimated that if same-sex couples were allowed to marry in Australia tomorrow, they would spend at least $700 million on their weddings. A lot of that wedding spend will now go to New Zealand."

Barry O'Farrell, the premier of New South Wales -- Australia's most populous state -- is a conservative who originally opposed SSM but has since changed his mind. He said:

" We should be encouraging people to have commitment and family units. So to recognize that government through marriage does acknowledge commitment and loving relationships with certain people in the community, and that should be extended to all people in the community. 4

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2013-JUN-06: Green Party will move to hold federal Senate vote to recognize foreign same-sex marriages:

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, a member of the Green Party, said that Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott had blocked a Greens bill to recognize same-sex marriage in Australia.

The party is now planning to extract one important component of that bill -- the recognition in Australia of legal same-sex marriages solemnized in other countries -- and create a separate Overseas Marriages Recognition Bill. They expect that a vote will occur in the Senate during June.

Kerryn Phelps, an advocate for marriage equality and former head of the Australian Medical Association married her partner Jackie Stricker-Phelps in New York. Phelps said that the current laws produce:

"... a bureaucratic nightmare for same-sex couples. Australian politicians are not listening to their population and it's time that they did,"

Stricker-Phelps said that a few politicians are preventing progress toward marriage equality, even as nearby New Zealand has passed legislation to recognize same-sex marriage. She said:

"It's disgraceful. it's embarrassing to this country."

Rodney Croome, Convener of Australian Marriage Equality agrees with the proposed bill. He said:

"We are disregarding those other countries' laws. We are treating those countries with disrespect as well as treating couples who marry in those countries with disrespect."

He noted that the Australian government had ended an earlier ban on documents that couples in Australia need in order to get married outside the country. He said:

"It makes no sense to allow Australian same-sex couples to marry in other countries but then to disregard those marriages when those couples return to Australia."

Stuart Cohen, at National Public Radio News, said:

"When New Zealand gave women the right to vote in the 1800s, it took Australia nine years to follow suit. Same-sex marriage supporters say they hope it doesn't take that long for Australia to catch up to its smaller neighbor once again." 13

With a SSM:

  • law having been created in Canada during mid-2005,
  • law having been created in New Zealand recently,
  • bill being launched in Scotland recently,
  • bill having been overwhelmingly passed in the UK House of Commons and House of Lords, and signed into law by the Queen,

Australia is likely to soon be one of the very small minority of predominately English speaking countries that have not achieved marriage equality in spite of a significant and growing margin of Australian adults in favor of SSM.

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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. Stephen Gray, "Australia: Senate committee backs marriage equality in ‘watershed’ report," Pink News, 2012-JUN-25, at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/
  2. "Australian Senate kills gay marriage bill," NineMSN, 2012-SEP-20, at: http://news.ninemsn.com.au/
  3. Vittorio Hernandez, "2nd rejection for sam-sex marriage bill in Senate," International Business Times, 2012-SEP-21, at: http://au.ibtimes.com/
  4. Stuart Cohen, "Pressure Grows In Australia To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage," NPR, 2013-MAY-16, at: http://www.npr.org/
  5. "Australia's gay marriage ban upheld by lawmakers," Huffington Post, 2012-SEP-19, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  6. "MPs to vote on recognising gay marriage," Herald Sun, 2013-JUN-06, at: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/

Copyright © 2012 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2012-JUN
Latest update: 2013-AUG-05
Assembled by: B.A. Robinson

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