Posts Tagged As: Australia

Is Australia’s Marriage Equality Plebiscite Doomed?

Jim Burroway

August 24th, 2016

Two recent developments have revived the debate over whether the Australian government should proceed with its stated intention to hold a promised national plebiscite over same-sex marriage this year, next year. Of course, the first development was the announcement that the plebiscite won’t happen until February at the earliest, despite promises by the ruling Liberal Party (which is actually Australia’s conservative party) and its coalition partners over the past two years to hold the plebiscite in 2016. The announced delay has been roundly denounced for breaking a major, oft-repeated campaign pledge. That row prompted former High Court justice Michael Kirby, who is openly gay, to publicly denounce the very idea of a plebiscite:

He said Australian voters had rarely supported referendum questions and there was no reason a plebiscite would be any different.

“It will mean any time that there is something that is controversial, that’s difficult for the parliamentarians to address or they don’t want to address, they’ll send it out to a plebiscite.

…”This is going to be, if it goes ahead … running out the old issues of hatreds and animosities, abominations and all the old arguments against gay people. We didn’t do this for the Aboriginal people when we moved to give equality in law to them, we didn’t do it when we dismantled the White Australia policy … we didn’t do it in advances on women’s equality, we didn’t do it most recently on disability equality. Why are we now picking out the LGBT, the gay community? It’s simply an instance of hate and dislike, hostility to a small minority in our population. It’s unAustralian.”

Kirby’s sentiments aren’t new. Others have said the same thing. They also note that when the Liberal government explicitly banned same-sex marriage in 2004, they didn’t hold a plebiscite to do it. And besides that, there is no provision in Australia’s constitution that would make a plebiscite binding. The Government would be free to ignore it regardless of its outcome. These and other similar reactions coming from many other quarters of Australian society seems to have stiffened the spines of opposition leaders in Parliament:

Bill Shorten has prepared the ground for Labor to block the government’s proposed marriage equality plebiscite after he launched a stinging attack on the plan.

Speaking to the National Press Club on Wednesday, the opposition leader said he and many of his colleagues were “on the record as opposing” the plebiscite.

“I am gravely concerned about the merits of the plebiscite,” he said.

With senators Nick Xenophon and Derryn Hinch indicating this week that they would vote against legislation to enable the plebiscite, a parliamentary bloc is emerging consisting of Labor, the Greens, Xenophon and Hinch that would be sufficient to block it.

Shorten is repeating the demand that Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull allow a free vote in Parliament. (A free vote occurs when party members are permitted to vote their conscience instead of being bound to support the party’s position.) Shorten noted that before Turnbull became Prime Minister, when his predecessor and fellow Liberal Tony Abbott held the job and opposed a free vote on marriage equality, Turnbull supported a free vote in Parliament. Other opposition parties also say they will oppose a plebiscite:

A plebiscite on same-sex marriage is looking less likely, with the Federal Opposition determined to have a parliamentary vote to change marriage laws instead.

The Government has promised to have a national vote — or plebiscite — to determine whether same sex marriage should be allowed. But the Greens, Labor and the three Senators from the Nick Xenophon Team are all firm that a plebiscite is unnecessary. That would make it impossible for the Government to pass a law to have a national vote.

…Greens leader Richard Di Natale said Parliament could agree to same-sex marriage when it meets for the first time next Tuesday, “but instead, the Liberals want to run a costly and divisive public vote that may be ignored by many of their so-called representatives anyway”.

“The plebiscite is pointless,” Senator Di Natale said.

“We already know there’s overwhelming support for marriage equality in the community and in the parliament so it can’t be seen as anything but a delay tactic.”

Polling shows that upwards of 70% of Australians support marriage equality, while support for conducting a national plebiscite is quickly losing ground.

Australia’s Prime Minister Pushes Marriage Equality Plebiscite Off Until Next Year

Jim Burroway

August 22nd, 2016

For the past few years, Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his predecessor, Tony Abbott, have been promising for more than a year to hold a plebiscite in 2016 on same-sex marriage. Turnbull, who has refused a free vote in Parliament, was narrowly re-elected on that pledge. Now it looks like that vote won’t happen until February 2017 at the earliest.

The Turnbull government will push back the date of the proposed same-sex marriage plebiscite until February 2017, breaking a flagship pledge. The Prime Minister had said he wanted the vote to be held this year.

However a spokesperson for Mr Turnbull told Fairfax Media that Special Minister of State, Scott Ryan,  received advice last week from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) advising the government to push the vote back.

“The government has always said that a decision on same-sex marriage will be made by a vote of all Australians in a national plebiscite to be held as soon as practicable,” the spokesperson said.

“That commitment has not changed. Late last week, the AEC provided advice to the Special Minister of State that strongly recommended against the conduct of a plebiscite this calendar year.”

Labor and Greens, who oppose a plebiscite and call for a free vote in Parliament, have attacked the announcement as “another broken promise by Malcolm Turnbull“:

“Mr Turnbull is willing to waste taxpayers’ money and provide a platform for hate campaigns, all because he doesn’t have the guts to put a vote to Parliament,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said.

“Let’s just get on with it. Parliament should do its job and deal with a marriage equality bill, with all parties afforded a free vote.”

An analysis published by the Sydney Morning Herald shows that if Turnbull would allow a free vote in Parliament, it could pass both houses:

The analysis found at least 84 lower house MPs and 41 senators in the new Parliament would vote in favour of marriage equality if a free vote were granted – enough to succeed in both chambers.

“Marriage equality enjoys clear majority support in both houses of Parliament,” said long-time gay rights campaigner Rodney Croome. “If the Coalition allowed a free vote, marriage equality could pass tomorrow and the nation could move on.”

… Mr Croome said the number of supportive lower house MPs could be as high as 87, including the Coalition’s Jason Falinski, Jane Prentice and Melissa Price. “Either way, it’s a strong majority,” he said.

The vote appears tighter in the Senate, but marriage equality advocates counted 41 locked-on supporters, including all nine Greens and the three NXT senators. Thirty-nine votes are required for a majority.

Australian Marriage Equality chairman Alex Greenwich concurred with those numbers but warned a “stalemate” could occur if the plebiscite was blocked in the Senate and the Coalition then refused to grant a free vote.

Australian gay men form a ‘Dallas buyers club’ for getting PrEP

Timothy Kincaid

December 1st, 2015

As in every nation in the world other than the US (and soon France), Truvada has not been approved in Australia for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Thus it is not covered through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and must be paid out of pocket, a cost of about $1,200 per month.

However, there are a number of pharmacies in India that make a generic version of Truvada (for example Cipla makes and sells Tenver-EM) and a group of gay Australian men have decided not to wait for official government approval. They are going through a pharmacy in Africa to get the generic version of PrEP. (SMH)

To get around this, a group of men have started a website called “PreP access now” to help people order cheaper generic versions of the drug from multiple online sources, including Africa for about $60 a month.

One of its founders, Steve Spencer, said dozens had ordered the drug with the group’s help since it began in the middle of the year. It is now offering free orders for people who cannot afford the $60 monthly fee because the African pharmacy offers one free order for every two made.

“A bunch of us gay men who saw nothing happening said ‘stuff it’ we’re going to come together and make a change,” he said. “Our numbers are increasing every day, but it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure the health of Australians, and… to ensure equal and easy access to PrEP if we want to end new HIV infections in Australia.”

I find this a bit concerning. While Cipla and other Indian companies have a long track record and their drugs are considered reliable, African pharmacies have less credible reputations. I hope that these guys are having the drugs spot-checked for accuracy.

Australia’s Liberal Party ousts Tony Abbott

Timothy Kincaid

September 14th, 2015

TurnbullTony Abbott’s determined refusal to allow Liberal Party member to support a marriage equality bill is but one indicator of a managerial style that grated on fellow members and lost the respect of the public. And finally, Abbott’s power has broken. This morning the Liberal parliamentarians replaced Abbott as their party leader with Malcolm Turnbull, by a 54 to 44 vote. Upon being sworn in, Turnbull will become the 29th Prime Minister of Australia.

Turnbull (himself previously ousted as party leader by Abbott in 2009) is considered to be much more moderate than Abbott. He has indicated his support for same sex marriage and had called for a conscience vote in the last marriage effort. But what this means for marriage equality in Australia is, as yet, uncertain. (Guardian)

Malcolm Turnbull has promised a new prime ministerial style respecting the intelligence of the Australian electorate and explaining necessary policy changes after winning the Liberal leadership from Tony Abbott in a party room ballot by 54 votes to 44.

But Turnbull said the substance of the Coalition’s climate change policy and its pledge to hold a national plebiscite on marriage equality would not change. He declined to nominate policies that would be altered without first consulting colleagues because he was determined to restore a “thoroughly traditional cabinet government”.

Abbott thwarts marriage vote

Timothy Kincaid

August 11th, 2015

“There will be no same-sex marriage while I’m in charge,” seems to be the unspoken position of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Although polls show that a large majority of Australians support marriage equality (a quarter of the population considers it a ‘high priority’), Abbott has dug in his heels and is refusing to budge.

But the problem with ‘not while I’m in charge’ mentality is that there is an obvious solution. And Abbott appears to be blind to the consequences of strong arm tactics.

The matter comes down to this: in parliamentary block-voting politics, Party members all cast the same vote. In that way the party’s positions are upheld by the members. The exception is when a party leader allows a ‘free vote’, or one in which members can vote their own conscience rather than the party position, and that is what some members of Abbott’s Liberal Party have asked for.

However, if Liberals are allowed to vote on marriage, there is a good chance enough will vote such that equality would prevail. So Abbott has done his best to make sure that doesn’t happen.

First, he stalled on the issue, insisting that it be delayed. Finally, when he could no longer delay debating on a free vote, he stacked the room. Rather than the Liberals meeting to determine whether they could have a free vote, Abbott also invited coalition partners Nationals, who are nearly unanimously opposed to allowing gay citizens the same rights as heterosexual citizens.

This allowed Abbott’s conservative block, along with the Nationals, to block a free vote for Labor. But it pissed off those Labor supporters of equality who felt sandbagged by their leader’s decision and that it was unfair to allow another party to dictate how Labor MPs could vote. They felt that Abbott’s win-at-all-costs tactic did not respect his own members.

This may all smooth over. But the thing about ruthlessness is that no matter how it turns out, it still leaves a nasty taste in the mouth of the voters. And when employed against allies, it tends to erode their loyalty.

It remains to be seen when Australia will join most of Europe and the Americas in respecting their gay and lesbian neighbors, friends, and family. It will come, of course, though perhaps not while Tony Abbott is in power.

But Abbott should have considered that his attitude on the issue may be a self-fulfilling prophesy, and sooner than he anticipates.

NSW parliament calls for free vote on marriage in Australia

Timothy Kincaid

June 24th, 2015

The Parliament in New South Wales is controlled by the same coalition of political parties as the nation’s Parliament, the Liberal Party and the National Party of Australia. It has just voted to encourage the federal Parliament to have “a respectful debate that is tolerant of all views”, or in other words, to allow a free vote.

The vote was unanimous and was supported by Premier Mike Baird. (Sydney Morning Herald)

[Independent Sydney MP Alex ] Greenwich called on the federal government to “stop delaying the inevitable”.

“The Liberal Party claims to be the party of “individual freedom” and a free vote should be its default position on this issue,” he said.

This move increases the pressure on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to allow a free vote on the issue.

And it undoubtedly pisses off Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher. I wonder if more letters are forthcoming.

Sydney Catholic diocese writes businesses about marriage

Timothy Kincaid

June 24th, 2015

aussie ads

A number of Australian and global businesses have been putting pressure on the Australian government to support marriage equality. Representing some of the biggest players in the Australian economy, they have been jointly running advertisements in papers announcing their support and asking other businesses to join them.

This obviously concerns the Catholic Church, which opposes equality. But its response is baffling. (ABC)

The Catholic Church in Sydney is sending letters to companies that publicly support same-sex marriage, expressing its “grave concern” about their stance.

The Archdiocese of Sydney has targeted some of the 150 businesses that put their names and logos to recent newspaper advertisements supporting gay marriage.

While it’s a bit odd that they write the letters at all, it’s the language and tone that are perplexing.

“It is… with grave concern that I write to you about the Marriage Equality for Australians campaign,” it reads.

“You are publically supporting a strategic, political and well-funded campaign designed to pressure the Federal Government into changing the Marriage Act.

“For corporations to speak on such issues… is indeed overstepping their purpose and it is to be strongly resisted.”

I can’t imagine that anyone opening a letter from the Catholic Church informing them that they are “overstepping their purpose” is going to receive that news without objection. And after the Church has been yowling about marriage for months, to tell someone else that they should not express an opinion reveals a level of arrogance that is astounding.

The Church then includes a not-so-subtle threat

“You may be aware that the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney is a significant user of goods and services from many corporations, both local and international,” it reads.

Needless to say, the company providing ABC with the story was not amused. Nor were they inclined to back away from their support.

Maurice Blackburn principal Liberty Sanger said she was not sure what the intention of the letter was, but either way the law firm would not be intimidated.

“Now it may well be that their intention was to try and frighten us into not participating in the debate,” she said.

“If that was the objective, well it’s had… obviously had the opposite effect.

This heavy-handed tone deaf missive might have been effecting in the 1500’s. But I very much suspect that it has only earned ill will from the businesses in Australia, along with the Australian people.

Australia marriage update

Timothy Kincaid

May 28th, 2015

Since writing about the increased impetus towards marriage equality in Australia, further signs of its inevitability have shown.

After Australian Opposition leader Bill Shorten filed his intent to present a marriage bill, Prime Minister Tony Abbott appears to have realized what a vote on such a bill might mean to his party. If the nation, which supports marriage equality by at least a two to one margin, were to perceive this to be a partisan identified issue (as, well, it is) that could be damaging. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has hinted that same-sex marriage should be brought before Parliament via a cross-party bill, in a major shift in his language on the reform.

“If our Parliament were to make a big decision on a matter such as this, it ought to be owned by the Parliament and not by any particular party.”

The general interpretation of this message is that Abbott will be giving a conscience vote to the Liberal MPs. He also seems to imply that any marriage bill would need to come from a coalition including members of his party so as to avoid the impression that when marriage comes, it will have been a Labor victory. To Shorten’s credit, he appears to be willing to achieve the goal irrespective of who gets the credit.

Abbott appears not to be the only conservative in Australia who is acknowledging that it is now time to bring about marriage equality in the Land Down Under. Rob Stott at BuzzFeed has an excellent compendium of comments by conservatives either endorsing equality or recognizing its immediate likelihood.

Will Australia be next?

Timothy Kincaid

May 26th, 2015


There is no question but that Ireland is serving as inspiration around the globe. And one person feeling the pressure is Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

Abbott is the head of the Liberal Party (which is considered the more conservative of significant parties) and is in a coalition government with the Liberal National Party, the National Party, and the Country Liberal Party. And though Abbott vehemently opposes marriage equality, he recognizes that a large majority of the country, most of the opposing parties, and a growing number of his own party are equality supporters.

And in this upcoming week, the process towards marriage will begin. (gaystarnews)

Australian Opposition leader Bill Shorten has become the first leader of a major political party to put forward legislation to allow same-sex marriage in Australia just days after more members of the conservative wing of his party announced they now would vote in favor of marriage equality.

Shorten, leader of the Australian Labor Party, put his intention in writing earlier today, giving notice to the Parliament that he will table such a bill when the House of Representatives meets on Monday.

The success of the bill may depend on the outcome of a conscience vote decision.

Australia, like many multi-party countries, employs block voting where all delegates of the same party cast identical votes. Unlike in the US where every legislator is always free to vote their conscience on any issue (though they may pay politically for bucking the party leaders), in Australia legislators can only veer from the party position with permission.

The success of the bill depends on how the parties approach the vote.

If the Liberals do not allow a conscience vote, all their votes go to oppose equality and the bill cannot pass. If the Liberal do allow a conscience vote and Labor votes as a block, the bill is expected to pass.

But if both sides allow a conscience vote, the numbers are quite close. There are enough Liberal supporters and enough uncertainty to make it too close to call. But Liberal Minister of Communications Malcolm Turnbull is bullish on the bills success. (skynews)

Cabinet minister Malcolm Turnbull expects parliament to legalise same-sex marriage before the end of the year.

‘I have never seen a social issue which has changed attitudes as rapidly as this one,’ he said, adding his feeling was that legislation was ‘very likely to pass’.

And in response to questions from media today, Prime Minister Abbott seems to be offering some hope.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says there will be a ‘very full, frank and candid and decent’ debate inside the Liberal partyroom about legalising same-sex marriage.

Mr Abbott was responding to a Labor move to introduce a private member’s bill to parliament next week with a likely vote later in the year.

‘It is an issue where decent people can differ,’ the prime minister told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

At some point, nearer to a vote, Liberal MPs would debate the issue in their party room.

The outcome of the party room decision will likely determine whether marriage equality comes to the Land Down Under this year.

Pressure on for Australian marriage bill

Timothy Kincaid

December 14th, 2013

Quite a bit of attention has been paid to marriage equality in Australia in recent days.

The big news was on Wednesday, when the High Court reversed the “same-sex marriage”* bill enacted by the Australian Capital Territory. But other movement has kept the issue from being past and forgotten.

New South Wales’ upper house of Parliament narrowly defeated a marriage equality bill on Thursday. The Green Party in Western Australia proposed a marriage bill on the same day that the Court ruled, which seems unlikely to advance. Earlier in the week, a fringe Catholic morality party, the Democratic Labor Party, had proposed a referendum on the issue which was defeated by the unlikely combination of the conservative ruling Liberal Party and the Green Party. And last month the Governor-General (the Queen’s representative and titular head of state) indicated her support for marriage equality.

Yesterday, Federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that Parliament may change the marriage laws to allow same-sex couples to marry. (Guardian)

Turnbull said he thought it was “very likely” that the parliament would consider a private member’s bill and that the Coalition party room would agree to a conscience vote, rather than a repeat of the situation last year when Coalition members were bound to vote against same-sex marriage.

“As to whether that would then result in the bill being passed, it’s probably a bit early to say because it’s a new parliament, there’s a lot of new members, but I think there is a reasonable prospect of a change to the law in this parliament,” Turnbull told ABC radio on Friday.

In an apparent argument that Australia was slipping behind similar countries elsewhere, Turnbull added: “I just note that if you look around the world, you know the big English speaking countries we feel ourselves culturally close to, all of them now recognise same-sex marriage: New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada and now about a third of the United States.”

Much of the issue depends on whether Prime Minister Tony Abbott will allow his party members to vote their conscience, or whether they will be required to vote in accordance with the party’s stance. As about two thirds of Australians support marriage equality, and as several Liberal MPs are expected to (or could be pressured to) support the bill, there is a good chance that it could prevail.

A number of other Liberal politicians, including the premiers of states and territories, have opined that a conscience vote should be allowed. And should that happen, Turnbull has indicated willingness to co-sponsor the bill.

It is far to early to predict, but Abbott has made a statement that could hint at a potential compromise. (Pink News)

On Friday, Mr Abbott said his position on the issue had not changed and that he remains opposed to equal marriage.

He said the High Court decision was obviously disappointing for the same-sex couples who had recently married in the ACT.

“They knew that there was this possibility that their marriages might fall foul of the High Court and obviously it’s disappointing for them,” he said.

“Let’s see what the future holds.”

* quotation marks are around “same-sex marriage” not as scare-quotes, but because the ACT sought to bypass federal control over marriage law by declaring that their bill was not about marriage but rather about an entirely separate institution called “same-sex marriage”.

Australia High Court Overturns Same-Sex Marriage Law

Jim Burroway

December 11th, 2013

Only the Federal Parliament can provide same-sex marriage, says the High Court:

The judges found the ACT law could not operate alongside the federal law as only the Federal Parliament had the power under the constitution to legislate on same sex marriage. They said the federal Marriage Act did not allow or recognise marriages between same sex couples.

The court held the ACT’s act provided for marriage equality for same sex couples, not, as the territory argued, for a form of legally recognised relationship that was different from marriage. The finding means the ACT act cannot operate concurrently with the federal act.

“Because the ACT act does not validly provide for the formation of same sex marriages, its provisions about the rights of parties to such marriages and the dissolution of such marriages cannot have separate operation and are also of no effect,” the statement said. “The court held that the whole of the ACT act is of no effect.”

The marriages of those who were joined together the past five days have been dissolved by the Court’s action.

It all seemed like something of a longshot. In Australia, marriages are regulated by the Federal government, and not the individual states and territories, a reversal of the legal framework in the U.S. Under Federal law, marriage in Australia is explicitly between opposite sex couples, thanks to a 2004 amendment to the Marriage Act that was imposed by the Liberal Party (which is actually the socially and economically conservative party). The Australia Capital Territory (ACT) enacted what they argued was a completely separate institution called “same-sex marriage,” which, their argument went, was completely different and independent from the Federally-defined and regulated institution of marriage. The High Court didn’t buy that argument.

The Liberal government immediately challenged the ACT law as soon as it was enacted. Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbot has resisted calls for allowing a conscience vote on a marriage equality bill in the Federal Parliament.

Australia gets a possible marriage window

Timothy Kincaid

December 3rd, 2013

Today the Australian High Court heard arguments as to whether or not the Australian Capital Territory (a political subdivision similar to the District of Columbia) could offer ‘same-sex marriage’.

In a nut-shell the arguments went a bit like this: the Commonwealth (Federal government) argued that it had sole right to define and codify rules relating to marriage and that marriage was defined as between a man and a woman. The ACT countered that since the Commonwealth had defined marriage to be between a man and a woman, this new legal contract which they had created called ‘same-sex marriage’ didn’t fit the definition of marriage, was not marriage but something else entirely, and therefore did not fall under the Commonwealth’s control.

It’s a rather fun Catch 22. If they are real marriages, then what business has the Commonwealth in engaging in bigoted discrimination. And if they are not real marriages, then bugger off and leave the ACT alone.(ABC)

The court says it will hand down its decision next Thursday, and in the meantime will allow same-sex marriages to take place in Canberra.

‘Same-sex marriages’ (not to be confused with marriages between the same sex) can begin on Saturday. The court may rule against ACT, and despite the brilliance of the argument, I think it’s likely. However, there is hope that their legal ploy will work and even greater hope that those marriages which are conducted in the interim will retain their legality.

And if the court allows the distinction to go ACT’s way, I wonder whether an opposite sex couple could become ‘same-sex married’.

Australian Capital Territory Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Jim Burroway

October 22nd, 2013

The Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory (pop. 373,000), home of the nation’s capital of Canberra, earlier this morning gave its approval for the Marriage Equality Same-Sex Bill. Under the new law, same-sex couples throughout Australia will be able to marry in the ACT by the end of the year. The awkwardly-named bill’s title was the result of several last-minute changes made in an attempt to head off a promised High Court challenge by the Federal Government under Tony Abbot. According to this press release from the Human Rights Law Centre and Australian Marriage Equality:

The HRLC and AME have provided the ACT Government with suggested amendments which would be easy to make and would ensure the Bill creates a new legal status of “same-sex marriage” clearly distinguishable from federal marriage. This would greatly shore up the law’s chances of surviving the High Court challenge that the Commonwealth Government has promised to mount.

At this point, it’s unclear to me what differences lie between marriage as it existed before and this new legal status of same-sex marriage. Whatever those differences may be, the Federal Government under Prime Minister Tony Abbot has already promised to launch a High Court challenge. Liberal party leaders (which is actually the conservative party in Australia) are also concern-trolling on behalf of same-sex couples:

Earlier this month, Senator Brandis said he had received advice the bill was “invalid by reason of inconsistency” with the Commonwealth Marriage Act.

“It would be very distressing to individuals who may enter into a ceremony of marriage under the new ACT law, and to their families, to find that their marriages were invalid,” a statement put out today read.

ACT Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson supports the Commonwealth’s stance.

“It would be disappointing for those individuals to then find themselves in a legal tangle,” he said.

Abbot’s sister, Christine Forster, who loves in Sydney and is engaged to her partner Virginia Edwards, welcomed the bill’s passage:

“There would have been many many couples that had been waiting for this, particularly couples that live in the ACT, and if Virginia and I were living there we would probably take advantage of this law having been passed,” Ms Forster told Sky News.

“The federal government has foreshadowed that it will challenge the law in the High Court and that casts a shadow over the long-term validity of this law.

“I hope that it stands. Ideally, however, the best outcome we could have for all Australians would be a change in the federal marriage act. Then it would be beyond question by the High Court and that’s the ultimate goal and I think that’s what everybody would like to see.”

Forster added that they will not rush to ACT to get married, but will wait until they can marry “here in our home.” She also called for her brother to allow a free conscience vote on marriage equality nationwide for the ruling coalition. Labor MPs were allowed a conscience vote last year when the question came up in the Federal Parliament.

Domestic partnership registries are currently available in New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria. Until now, ACT provided Civil Partnerships for same-sex couples, as does Queensland. In 2004, the federal Parliament amended the Marriage Act to limit marriage to one man and one woman and to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriage from a foreign country. Other parts of Australian law over the years have been changed however to recognize same-sex couples on the federal level in areas such as taxation, pensions, health, and unemployment.

So After Pope Francis’s Opening, These Things Happened

Jim Burroway

September 25th, 2013

After the Jesuit magazine America published an interview with Pope Francis last week in which the pontiff chastised the church for “insist(ing) only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” a couple of events took place which, in my view, reinforced my caution that while we can be greatly encouraged by Francis’s comments, its important not to get too carried away. Specifically, I pointed out that nothing in church doctrine had changed. Further, I cautioned that just as under Benedict XVI, the entire Church was not the Pope and hierarchy, but the laity as well; so, too, today the entire Church is not the Pope and laity, but the hierarchy as well. A couple of events since last week bring all of that back into sharp focus.

First, there’s the excommunication of the former Father Greg Reynolds, of Melbourne, Australia. Fr. Reynolds says that he was excommunicated over his support for women’s ordination and gay Catholics. That excommunication took place last May, before the Pope’s more recent comments and before his comment last July responding to a question about gay priests with another question: “Who am I to judge?” Chronology may or may not explain the church’s inconsistency in its approach to Reynolds. Another explanation may be found in this report by the independent and often critical National Catholic Reporter:

The letter, a copy of which NCR obtained and translated, accuses Reynolds of heresy (Canon 751) and determined he incurred latae sententiae excommunication for throwing away the consecrated host or retaining it “for a sacrilegious purpose” (Canon 1367). It also referenced Canon 1369 (speaking publicly against church teaching) in its review of the case.

I have no idea as to the circumstances or veracity of that middle accusation. It may be real, or it may be a red herring. Of the three accusations, that one by far would be the most serious, and its inclusion here greatly clouds the issue. Reynolds has addressed the first and third accusation, but so far I’ve found no comments from anyone on the second one, except for Reynold’s broader comments saying he doesn’t know why he was excommunicated. As I said, there may be nothing to it, or there may be more than Fr. Reynolds is disclosing. Until that is sorted out, the question of Reynolds’s excommunication remains not so cut-and-dried in my mind.

Much less murky is the decision by Providence College, a Catholic institution in Rhode Island, to rescind its invitation to John Corvino, chair of Wayne State University’s philosophy department, to discuss the ethics (and not the theology) of gay marriage in a debate with a Providence theologian. Corvino’s invitation, which was co-sponsored by nine departments and programs, was cancelled in an announcement last Saturday by college provost and senior vice president Hugh F. Lena, who cited a church document that says that “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.” This, of course, wasn’t an “honor,” but a debate and discussion, which, last I checked, was supposed to be one of the hallmarks of higher education. Corvino responded:

The reference to “awards, honors, or platforms which would suggest support for their actions” applies, for example, to allowing such politicians to present commencement addresses or to receive honorary degrees. By contrast, I am an academic speaker. Both the person introducing me and I would state clearly that my views were not those of the Catholic Church; moreover, a respondent from the Providence College theology department, Dr. Dana Dillon, would follow immediately to explain the Church’s position on marriage. Far from suggesting “support” for my views, the College would have ample opportunity to express precisely the opposite.

The silver lining however is a pretty big one. It exposes Providence College to suspicions that it is not confident in its ability to defend church doctrine when it comes to marriage equality. That’s a pretty pathetic patch of ground for a supposedly prestigious Catholic college to stand on, if you ask me. Also, the timing of the cancellation’s announcement — on the Saturday after Pope Francis’s interview went online — couldn’t have been better to guarantee the most favorable publicity. For Corvino:

So, Providence College has done wonders for my media exposure. In the last 24 hours I’ve talked to The New York Times, the Associated Press, The Huffington Post, the Providence Journal, the Detroit Free Press, a half dozen radio producers (I’m about to go on WPRO with former Providence mayor Buddy Cianci), and MSBNC (which may have me on “Last Word” tomorrow or Thursday night).

Good news for Australia

Timothy Kincaid

September 12th, 2013

Supporters of marriage equality in Australia may be a bit down after last week’s election put Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott into power (in Australia, the Liberal Party is the more conservative of the two largest parties). While Labor leader Paul Kevin Rudd had promised to hold a vote on marriage equality within 100 days if reelected, Abbott has been a staunch opponent of equality under the law.

But there is good news. A positive omen. A promise of better times.

Because on their NOMblog, Brian Brown from the National Organization for Marriage (theirs, not yours) has this to say:

“Sank Like a Stone” — that’s how same-sex marriage faired (sic) in Australia this past week.

Australia held elections for Prime Minister the other day, but it was as much a referendum on whether the Aussies would redefine marriage or not. Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd nailed his hopes of winning to a promise of introducing legislation to redefine marriage within the first 100 days of returning to office.

As was reported, the pro-marriage platform of the former Prime Minister “sank beneath the waves” of the pro-marriage majority down under.

You may remember I had traveled to Australia in August for the World Congress of Families, and I could not be happier for the friends I made on that trip and our pro-marriage and family allies there.

It’s a great victory for marriage, and a win worth celebrating across the globe. It also serves as a reminder that when people are given the right to vote on marriage, they invariably vote to preserve the true and intrinsic nature of marriage as an institution binding one man to one woman for life in order to love and care for one another and for any children born of their union.

To cement this great victory, the people of Australia should insist on the right to a national referendum to preserve marriage. That’s the best way to capitalize on the momentum of the victory, and only an amendment will protect marriage from the unceasing efforts of gay-‘marriage’ activists and the politicians who rely on them for support. It’s the only way to ensure that the people — and not politicians or judges — control the definition of marriage in Australia.

Okay, let’s ignore for a moment the fact that the election was most certainly not a referendum on marriage, with 57% of voters saying that the candidates’ positions on marriage were “not important at all” to their vote. And let’s not giggle too loudly about NOM’s call for a public referendum on an issue which has the support of two-thirds of voters. Instead let’s look at what this means on a grand cosmic scale.

When NOM starts gloating, something magical happens. It’s an omen more accurate than pig entrails, astrological forecasts, and Pat Robertson’s Hurricane Watch combined. When NOM is on your side, you are certain to lose.

Look at Maine and Minnesota in November. Look at the New York elections this week. Look at France!!

Ah yes, NOM is joyous. And this is good news indeed.

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