Legalising same sex marriage faces a big hurdle in Parliament taking into consideration the big divide in Australian society at the crossroad of conservatism and change.
More than 3,000 advoccates of gender equality march into the Victorian Parliament House to protest the 8-year ban on marriage equality. (Photo: Equal Love)
Debates on marriage equality resumed Tuesday with deliberation that went overnight through Wednesday. At noon, Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 sponsored by Labor’s Stephen Jones was defeated, 42-98, at the Lower House. Both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abott voted against the bill. See AAP’s report who voted for and against HERE.
Four bills are before the federal Parliament – the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012, the Marriage Amendment Bill (No.2) 2012, the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 and the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010.
Senator Penny Wong with partner Sophie Allouache and baby daughter Alexandra. (Photo: The National Times)
The bills seek to amend the Marriage Act 1961 allowing same-sex marriages to be recognised while placing no obligation on a minister of religion to solemnise a same-sex marriage. The Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 is sponsored by Adam Brandt from the Australian Greens and Andrew Wilkie, an Independent representative from Denison, Tasmania. The proposed amendment suggests to remove discriminatory references based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to allow marriage regardless of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.
The other bill, Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 No. 2010 , sponsored by another Greens Senator Hanson-Young, is an Act to create the opportunity for marriage equality for people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, and for related purposes.
The Marriage Act 1961 defines marriage as ‘the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’.
At the state level, the Tasmanian House of Assembly passed the Same-Sex Marriage Bill on August 30, 2012 and is now to be considered by the Tasmanian Legislative Council. The Premier of South Australia has declared his support for marriage equality at the state level as has the Australian Capital Region (ACT) Government.
Gillard, un-wedded and atheist, stands aloof to the issue. She once said two people can love and commit to each other without being married. Gillard, at 50, has a partner but has no wedding plans. Abbott is neither supportive to the civil union of gays and lesbians. He admitted he is old-fashioned and he, thus, believes that marriage should be a union between a man and a woman.
The Sydney Mardi Grass is the largest gay festival in Australia. (Photo: Today)
Last night, Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi expressed fear that legalising same sex marriage will redefine marriage paving the way to bestiality and polygamy. He said the bills are attack to “our enduring institutions.” His remarks backfired creating furor among gay and lesbian groups and supporters. He later announced his resignation today saying ”My focus is now on directing my time and energy to representing the people of South Australia as a Liberal senator,” Fairfax Media quoted him as saying.
Pressures from gay and lesbian groups have been mounting and the Parliament cannot escape the issue. Over 3,000 gays marched in Melbourne to protest the 8-year ban on the “state-sanctioned discrimination” last week. In a demonstration of defiance, about 40 couples were wedded and officiated by a Catholic priest– Father Greg Reynolds. The priest has already gained notoriety from opening a church of dissident Catholics that welcomes ‘‘every man and his dog’’ – including gays and lesbians. Reynolds has overseen the wedding of couples who lack the legal right to marry under Australian law.
Reacting to the defeat of the Labor-sponsored bill, Equal Love Convener Ali Hogg said the voting down of the bill is an insult to to the LGBTI people.
“The voting down of this bill is an insult. It is an indictment of both major parties, neither of which have proven themselves allies of LGBTI people. We might expect nothing better from the Liberals, who have been happy to promote lunatic bigots like Corey Bernadi through their ranks for years, but the fact that the ALP has also failed to throw its weight behind equal rights, and has instead helped to maintain homophobic discrimination as law, is nothing less than shameful.”
Equal Love has already announced a future rally to be held on November 24. “We call on all supporters of equality to continue to pressure all sides of politics to vote in favour of equality in the upcoming marriage amendment bills.”
A catholic church is Sydney now accepts gays and lesbians into its congregation. (Image: gaycatholic.com.au)
Despite the concerted efforts of the multi-sectarian groups to discourage same gender marriage, a few traditional churches have somehow managed to accept this major shift. Acceptance, for example, is a faith community supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Catholics, their family and friends. It has been running for almost four decades.
By providing a safe, spiritual and social environment, through Acceptance, many GLBT Catholics have found reconciliation with their faith and sexuality.
Parents, Families, Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Victoria is another peak body of a voluntary organisation in support of gays and lesbians, who meet once a month to offer support and friendship to families – particularly parents – and to members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex community who may need support in coming out.
Countries that support same sex marriages (Photo: Google)
The Australian Human Rights Commission said civil marriage is a human right available to all without discrimination.
Commission President Gillian Trigg, in a statement, said the fundamental human rights principle of equality means that civil marriage should be available, without discrimination, to all couples, regardless of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.
“The parliamentary vote on marriage equality this week gives federal Parliament the opportunity to take another step towards equality for people who are discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation, sex and/or gender identity,” Professor Triggs said.
Releasing a Commission position paper on marriage equality ahead of this week’s parliamentary vote on the issue, she said that removing the prohibition on civil marriage for same-sex couples was the next step toward legislative equality with opposite-sex couples. Read the Commission’s position paper on marriage equality HERE. The positiion paper points out that:
Australia has legal obligations to protect and promote human rights including those encompassed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR includes the principles of equality and non-discrimination. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has concluded that the ICCPR does not prevent the recognition of same-sex marriage, rather the ICCPR does not impose a positive obligation on states to do so.
Equality is a key human rights principle. It is set out in article 26 of the ICCPR, which states that all people ‘are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law’. Article 2 of the ICCPR requires State Parties to ensure all individuals are to enjoy the rights set out in the ICCPR without discrimination.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands legalised the world’s first gay marriage in 2001. (Photo: Robin Utrech/AFP/Getty Images/Washington Post)
Canada also legalised the civil union of gays and lesbians under the Civil Marriage Act in 2005. (Photo: Phill Snel/Getty Images/ Washington Post)
The countries now fully recognising same-sex marriage include Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and several states in the USA. A marriage equality bill has passed its first reading in the New Zealand Parliament, and the Scottish and French Governments have also indicated they will introduce marriage equality bills.
Blog Link: Asian Correspondent