Australia gets a possible marriage window
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
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.
“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
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
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.
NSW Committee may have cleared the state for marriage
July 26th, 2013
Australia has long been restricted from achieving marriage equality by the understanding that marriage was the within the purview of the federal government. And a circus of politics, positions, postures, and pretences have conspired to keep the nation from enacting a policy that has popular support.
But now the Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues in New South Wales, Australia, has determined that the state can pass its own marriage laws – though no one is certain that their determination will hold. (GayNewsNetwork)
The Committee found that while NSW can legislate on same-sex marriage, any laws would be subject to challenge by the High Court and thus marriage equality would be best pursued in Commonwealth legislation.
The Hon Niall Blair, MLC, Chair of the Social Issues Committee said: “This report seeks to clarify the law, including in particular the question as to whether New South Wales can legislate on the topic of same-sex marriage; there is no doubt that it can. But whether the law would stand up to a challenge in the High Court is unpredictable and something that even leading experts in constitutional law disagree about.”
However, there may be sufficient political will to pass the legislation and call the federal government’s bluff. Leaders of all the political parties have expressed support for the position.
July 19th, 2013
Australia and New Zealand are friendly rivals, a bit like brothers who are ever competing with each other. So, naturally, when New Zealand achieved marriage equality laws, well…
And on August 19, 2013, Paul McCarthy and Trent Kandler are going to be the very first Aussie gay couple to be wed in New Zealand under the Marriage Amendment Act which will also take effect that very same day.
The couple had won the Tourism New Zealand promotion.
Tim Burgess, Tourism New Zealand’s General Manager said that, “Trent and Paul’s entry was unique, inspiring and had a distinct Kiwi flavor. Their affection for New Zealand shone through and we immediately knew that we had the perfect Australian couple to come and tie the knot in New Zealand. We are looking forward to helping Trent and Paul “Make History” in Wellington next month, it is going to be a wonderful celebration.
Australia dumps Gillard
June 28th, 2013
extremely rare unusual move, Australia’s governing party dumped its leader and, in the process, Prime Minister Julia Gillard. In her place, Labor reinstalled Kevin Rudd, who had similarly displaced by Gillard in 2010, as party leader and yesterday he was sworn in as Prime Minister.
What this means for marriage in that nation is anyone’s guess. Although Labor overwhelmingly supports equality, Gillard had steadfastly opposed the move. Last month Rudd endorsed same-sex marriage.
But whether Rudd is able to achieve equality may be secondary to whether he has time. Much of the motivation in Gillard’s ouster was driven by elections looming in September and polls showing that Tony Abbott’s Liberals (the more conservative party) held as much as a 70% lead.
In one of his first acts as Party leader, Rudd called on Abbott to allow a conscience vote on marriage equality. So far there is no response.
There is speculation that Rudd may push his new-found support for marriage – which is supported by a strong majority of Australians – along with a change in environmental policies in a desperate play to regain popular support for the party. Without a shift, Labor is primed to lose half its seats.
New South Wales cross-party work for marriage
November 20th, 2012
NSW is one step closer to a vote on legalising same-sex marriage, MPs from across the political spectrum giving official notice of new legislation.
A cross-party working group of MPs from the Coalition, Labor, the Greens and an independent have been working on a bill that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in this state, after the failure of three federal same-sex marriage bills earlier this year.
Coalition and Labor MPs will be allowed a conscience vote on the bill when it comes before Parliament next year.
Tasmania Defeats Same-Sex Marriage Bill
September 28th, 2012
The first attempt at state-based marriage in Australia went down in defeat yesterday when the Legislative Council, Tasmania’s upper house, voted down a measure to provide marriage equality by a vote of 8-6, with one abstention in the 15-member chamber. The vote followed two days of debate. Premiere Lara Giddings vowed to keep the fight up:
“We will continue this. It’s not the end. It’s the beginning,” Ms Giddings said. ”It took many times for us to get gay law reform through. It took many times and attempts to get anti-discrimination law reform through.”
Observers predicted that the bill would face its greatest difficulty in the Legislative Council after Tasmania’s lower house passed the measure 13-11. Uncommitted legislators fell back on Constitutional questions to vote against the bill:
Already struggling for numbers in the council, the Same Sex Marriage bill fell after key undeclared MPs raised constitutional doubts. Hobart independent, Jim Wilkinson, said he believed same sex law would continue to be argued. “But I believe it will come back in the Federal arena. In my mind that’s where it should be.”
Among backers of the bill, Devonport MP Mike Gaffney said he was not concerned that the bill might be legally challenged. ”If the possibility of an invalid bill stopped us, very little reform would take place,” Mr Gaffney said. “If we vote this bill down…the issue will not go away. Most importantly, the Australian community is alive to the issue of marriage equality.”
Marriage equality advocates take some consolation in how close they came. Tasmania was the last Australian state to decriminialize homosexuality in1997, and that took place only after the Federal government forced its hand.
Tasmania votes on marriage today
September 26th, 2012
The Tasmanian House approved a marriage bill last month, 13 votes to 11. The Senate has been debating the bill since yesterday and it is expected to reach a vote today. If it passes, Tasmania will be the first Australian state with marriage equality. However, questions still remain about its legality as marriage has traditionally been a federal issue.
Australian legislature votes down equality
September 21st, 2012
Australia’s House of Representatives (98 – 42) and Senate (41 – 26) have voted against allowing same-sex couples to marry, despite popular support for the change. Part of the vote disparity comes as a consequence of the political structure.
Here’s a brief explanation:
In the United States, there are (almost always) only two parties. Whichever party wins the most seats controls the legislative body. But other than voting on administrative leadership and structural control, a legislator is always free to vote their own way.
Party affiliations, rhetoric, and platforms are important indicators of likely votes, but ultimately the electorate selects individuals based on their qualifications and character. Candidates may agree with many, or even most of the positions of others in their party, but as there really are only two viable choices for affiliation at this time, there is little expectation that there will be total agreement with whichever party they are in.
But in nations with multiple parties, especially when one party does not dominate, quite often no single party has a majority and parties negotiate for power. But in order for negotiations to be meaningful and for coalitions to remain intact, the parties need to be able to make deals, as parties. The leader has to be able to promise the votes from his block on matters of importance to another party in order to ensure that his party can get the promise of another party’s votes on their priorities. Elections in multi-party nations also are to a larger extent votes for a party rather than a person and legislators are expected to vote “the party line”.
To a lesser extent, block voting is practiced in the States as well. Parties will caucus and negotiate and there are party whips whose job it is to keep votes more or less in line with party principles and positions. Stray too far and your funding and support in your next election will dry up. But in the US, “bipartisan support” is considered a positive for a bill and were a party leader to announce that all members must vote in a particular way on a bill, there would be public outcry.
Of course, in multi-party nations there are issues that are not party priorities or that do not break along party lines. In those instances, a “conscience vote” is allowed, at the discretion of the party leader. If there is no risk of a coalition dissolving or if there is no presumption that the voters assumed the party had a position, then a legislator may be allowed to vote as they wish without repercussions from the party.
Australia is a bit complicated. It is in some ways nearly a two-party nation, but it functions as a multi-party state. The two power houses are Labor, a centre-left party, and The Coalition, a collection of centre-right parties that – while distinct parties in their own right – broker power as a unit and can be held to a party line by the Coalition leader. Currently these two political entities are nearly evenly balanced in both houses of parliament, giving the much smaller Greens party the power to determine who leads the Senate and a handful of independents who make that determination for the House of Representatives. Labor holds control of both houses and Julia Gillard, Labor leader in the House, is Prime Minister.
(The closest US comparison is the 2006 elections which resulted in 49 Republican and 49 Democratic Senators. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who identifies as “democratic socialist” (akin to European centre-left party ideology), is not officially affiliated with a party. And Joe Lieberman, who is registered as a Democrat and was the party’s 2000 Vice Presidential nominee, lost the Democratic Party nomination but was elected to continued representing his state by the 25-member Connecticut for Lieberman Party. Both caucused with and gave Senate control to the Democratic Party for the 110th Congress.)
My apologies to Australian readers if I bungled that too badly and feel free to correct any glaring errors. And now back to the marriage vote.
Where things get tricky is when a vote is a party line vote for some parties and a conscience vote for others. This was the case with Australia’s vote on marriage.
The Coalition legislators were held to a party line vote, but Prime Minister Gillard, being personally opposed to marriage equality, allowed a conscience vote in the House. This split the Labor vote and, when Labor opponents were added to united Coalition voting block, this gave the bill a lopsided loss. A similar scenario played out in the Senate.
Although there are three more marriage bills in the House and one more in the Senate, it is assumed that their fate is the same. However, as a significant portion of this year’s Labor opposition is based in election strategy (which is not the same as representing the electorate’s majority view) there is some hope that marriage will pass in 2013. I have no idea if that is political reality or wishful declaration.
And, finally, as politics is a wacky thing, here’s a little tidbit. The Coalition leader in the
Senate House has a lesbian sister and expressed himself to be conflicted between promises made to his constituents and his personal feelings (he went with the promises). The Senate Labor leader, however, came up with a candidate for all-time-stupidest-political-comment-ever:
Senate President John Hogg told the chamber he had a deep-seated belief that marriage was between a man and woman.
“To decry my views is to seek to discriminate against me,” he said.
Meanwhile, the marriage battle has moved to the states.
A quote for a Friday afternoon
September 14th, 2012
Sometimes you just have to pull a quote out of context and throw it out there. Enjoy. (Sydney Morning Herald)
If you don’t think a country full of people having sex with donkeys is funny then maybe there’s something wrong with you.
Tasmania’s Lower House Passes Marriage Equality
August 30th, 2012
The ABC is reporting that Tasmania’s House of Assembly has approved a bill which will allow same-sex couples to marry. The 13-11 vote came after four hours of debate, with the Labor Speaker Michael Polley abandoning his party and the Greens to join 10 Liberals to oppose the measure. The debate itself was lopsided, with Greens MP Kim Booth, attacking Liberal Party members for remaining silent during the debate. The only Liberal to speak, Leader Will Hodgman, said only that the party was unified in opposing the measure while denying that party members were barred from a conscience vote.
The bill now goes to the Legislative Council, Tasmania’s upper house, for consideration in September. The ABC reports that the marriage equality bill “will have a harder path through the Upper House where some MPs are yet to declare their support.”
(Australians, as you know, speak a completely foreign language. Contrary to Americans’ usage of the term “liberal,” Australia’s Liberal Party derives its name from the early 1900′s understanding of economic liberalism, akin to other English speaking countries talking about “free markets.” The Liberal Party, economically and socially, is somewhat similar to the Republican Party in the U.S., although unlike the GOP, the Liberals haven’t purged their moderate wing to the same degree.)
Tasmanian marriage bill introduced
August 28th, 2012
From ABC’s Lateline:
Tasmania is a step closer to becoming the first state in Australia to legalise gay marriage.
The Premier, Lara Giddings, today tabled a marriage equality bill in State Parliament.
It is expected to pass the Lower House easily, but may have a devil of a time in the Upper House.
(While in American politics to “table” means to defer action on a bill until some future time, in Australia it means to bring it to the table for consideration).
When ignorant and stupid combine with privileged and entitled
July 16th, 2012
In one of the most truly stupid and whiny complaints I’ve heard this week, Russell and Lauryn Mark, both shooters representing Australia in the Olympics, are all upset that they can’t room together.
That’s not the whiny part – actually, I think the Olympic committee should find a way to allow couples to room together. If maximizing comfort and readiness are important to their performance, then that would probably be a smart move (though I’m sure the Australian Olympic Committee cares very little about my opinion on the subject).
The whiny part is this (Herald Sun):
But Mark says there is a clear double standard given many gay sportspeople on elite teams are in relationships but a heterosexual couple cannot room together.
“The stupid part of this, which I have argued to them, is that there are tons of gay couples on the Olympic team who will be rooming together so we are being discriminated against because we are heterosexual.” Mark said.
Ah, yes, tons of gay couples on the Olympic team. Tons and tons.
But this isn’t a case of stupid husband, tolerant wife. Nope, he truly found his match when he married Lauryn.
“I am very frustrated because in sport there are a lot of same sex couples and its OK to be partners with someone of the same sex but if you are heterosexual you are penalised.”
And let me guess… they also think it’s unfair that they had to pay for their wedding license when same-sex couples don’t have to pay for a license at all, right?
Ignorant. Stupid. Privileged. Entitled. Whiny. Jerks.
Marriage positions: the politic and the personal
May 18th, 2012
Too often our debate over marriage is given – by both sides – in carefully crafted language that has been focus group tested and is designed to “best get the point across”. And for some reason, politicians and pundits are firmly convinced that viewers and voters will never catch on that this canned, stale, “message driven” approach is anything less than fully sincere.
But once in a while – rarely – someone speaks with clarity and honesty that is so obviously based on reality and personal experience that it glows. This, part of Australia’s battle for marriage equality, is such a time:
Australia: it’s time
November 25th, 2011
Equality is a global struggle. This speaks to all of us.
Australian marriage drive is complicating politics
July 27th, 2011
This is an atypical commentary. I don’t have time to delve into what is going on in Australia and present it in a way that is intelligible to non-Australian readers. But I don’t want to ignore it any longer either.
So, for now I’ll tell you that in recent month the issue of marriage equality has become such a hot issue that it may possibly cause a shift in political alliances that could threaten the stability of the controlling alliance.
Although the Labor Party’s official policy opposes marriage equality, in state after state the party delegates are endorsing marriage in such a way as to force a confrontation. The Prime Minister supports the heterosexual-only definition but local Labor is pushing the issue and the party appears to be at war with itself.
Please note the uncertainty in the above and I hope our Australian readers will forgive me if I’ve got it entirely wrong. I will try to get a better analysis up sometime soon.
Australia’s marriage movement
November 15th, 2010
Marriage equality has again become a focal point in Australia and I am simply not adequately versed in Australian politics to state with certainty what is going on. But here is my take, and fortunately we have readers down under who can correct my inaccuracies.
Marriage equality has popular support in Australia with perhaps 60% or more favoring the idea. However, as with most nations, there are more liberal and more conservative areas and, as politicians are constantly seeking the path of power rather than principles or ideals, the rights of gay men and women are easily bartered away.
Currently, Julia Gillard is the Prime Minister and head of the Australian Labor Party. Labor is made up of two factions, Socialist Left which favors progressive social policies, and Labor Right which favors focusing on economic liberalism, a relative of libertarianism. (This is probably a very simplistic explanation; I hope it’s close enough). Although Gillard is from the Left side of the party, she has been sharply resistant to recognition of marriage equality.
With a government formed in a similar fashion as British Parliament, legislators often are required to vote as a block. A “conscience vote” is one in which a member of Parliament may make a personal decision which is not consistent with the party line. And as Gillard will not allow a conscience vote, the matter is more or less settled for now.
However, Labor’s position is not solid. In the August elections, Coalition (the center-right collection of parties) won an equal number of seats to the House of Representatives. Labor controls by means of the support of a Green Party member and three independents. To complicate matters more, although Gillard was part of the Left, she was advanced by the support of the Right in her party.
Recently the issue of marriage – which has for years been a hot potato – was given new life from an unexpected source: a member of Labor Right. (National Affairs)
Right-Wing Labor minister Mark Arbib has declared his party’s policy against gay marriage must change to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Mr Arbib is the first frontbencher to break his silence on the issue.
The NSW factional powerbroker told The Weekend Australian his view was that gay people should have the legal right to marry.
And he said all MPs should be given a conscience vote on the controversial issue.
Arbib is a rather powerful Senator, especially in Labor Right, and his change in position cannot be taken lightly. But it is also not a full endorsement as it would allow conservative Labor members to vote against marriage.
Labor Left does not favor a conscience vote, instead hoping for eventual control of the party and thus a block vote in favor of marriage. But Arbib’s statements have empowered other legislators to speak up.
Meanwhile, marriage has strong support in some of the states and the capitol area. So the states of South Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania either have or are considering proposals to legalize same-sex marriage. As marriage is a federally defined institution, this is a tricky legal strategy: because federal law addresses only heterosexual couples, the states want to claim the ability to make decisions about same-sex couples on their own. This also serves to pressure the feds to vote on the issue; if you want to maintain the power to define same-sex relationships, you have to take action.
And the stakes are very high. While federal parties have been able to avoid dealing with the issue by promises of a registry of some sort some day some time, a vote to quash gay couples and deny them rights would be seen as aggressively hostile and would likely shift power. While Labor can be wishy-washy, it dare not be “anti-gay” or it would votes to the Greens. And gay activists are willing to make it a campaign issue.
Got that so far?
Well, back at the federal level, the Greens have proposed an odd motion: to direct MPs to discuss the issue with their constituents. This puts Labor in a no-win position. While “I define marriage as a man and a woman” is not considered unreasonable, “I won’t even talk about it” is not.
So today Labor announced that it will support the Greens motion to discuss the matter with their constituents. (ABC)
The Government will back a Greens motion which calls for more debate about gay marriage, as tensions rise within Labor over its official position on the issue.
Labor agreed at its last national conference in 2009 not to support gay marriage, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard has ruled out a conscience vote on the issue.
But Labor will now support a Greens motion which calls for all MPs to speak to their constituents about gay marriage.
Undoubtedly, such discussions will result in much news coverage and an increase vocal support for equality. Additionally, a number of members of Labor intend to call for a change in position in the next national convention. Those on the left favor equality and those on the right fear losing power to the Greens.
So, although the Coalition has reaffirmed it’s opposition to marriage equality, it is at least reasonable to hope that Labor will change position and that marriage equality is not too far off in Australia.
Australia’s new Prime Minister confirms opposition to equality
June 29th, 2010
From the Sydney Morning Herald
Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she does not support legalising gay marriage in Australia.
Labor policy on gay marriage will remain the same under her prime ministership, Ms Gillard told Austereo show today.
“We believe the marriage act is appropriate in its current form, that is recognising that marriage is between a man and a woman, but we have as a government taken steps to equalise treatment for gay couples,” Ms Gillard said.
Asked if that was also her personal view, Ms Gillard said it was.
Those steps have a long way to go before they can be considered to have equalized treatment.