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Religious Tolerance logo

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

Part 9: 2013-DEC to 2014-MAY: Greens
launch SSM bill in Western Australia (WA).

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This is a continuation from a previous essay.

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Throughout this web site, "SSM" refers to marriages by same-sex couples.
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals.

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map of Australia2013-DEC-12: Greens introduce a same-sex marriage bill in Western Australia (WA):

The Hon Lynn MacLaren, MLC in the Greens Party, introduced a bill to legalize SSM in the state. She said:

"This bill builds on momentum across Australia to close the gap of inequality once and for all.

The Same-Sex Marriage Bill 2013 will allow the authorisation of celebrants and the registration of same-sex marriages via an amendment to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1998.

It also provides for the dissolution and annulment of failed same-sex marriages, and for related financial matters via amendments to the Family Court Act 1997. This Bill establishes marriage rights and responsibilities for same-sex couples that other couples have already.

Learning from the experiences in other states, I have introduced a Bill which can survive a High Court challenge.

Like all big achievements, I had a little help from my friends. One of Australia’s leading constitutional lawyers, George Williams AO, and Greens MPs with similar bills in other Australian states, have generously provided guidance.

Same-sex couples in WA who want to be married could look forward to it next year if this bill passes.

I believe that with the new WA Parliament we now have enough support to pass this legislation."

Rodney Croome, national director of Australian Marriage Equality, said:

"AME welcomes Lynn MacLaren's commitment to achieving marriage equality in WA.

We call on supporters of marriage equality across all parties in the WA parliament to join Lynn in co-sponsoring a marriage equality bill." 4

George Williams, a constitutional law expert from the University of New South Wales, said that the WA bill corrects problems in the earlier law passed in the ACT, and has a much better chance of being acceptable to the High Court. He said:

"The main problem was the ACT law set itself up as a full marriage equality law, it piggy-backed on the definition of marriage under the federal statute, it didn't set up a separate state classification for same-sex marriage.

What we can say is it gives (Ms MacLaren's) bill the best possible chance."

Premier Colin Barnett of the WA personally opposes same-sex marriages. Attending the Council of Australian Governments meeting, he said there was a mood for change and added that at some point there would be same-sex marriage in Australia.

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2013-DEC-15: Prime Minister Tony Abbott does not anticipate a federal marriage equality bill:

The prime minister said that he does not expect a same-sex marriage bill to come before federal parliament any time soon.

A senior colleague, Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull, said that it is likely that the coalition MPs would be allowed a free "conscience" vote when a marriage equality bill is filed. In the past, coalition MPs have been required to vote the party line against SSM, and all bills have failed.

He said:

"I think it is likely that we will (have a free vote), but as Tony Abbott has said, it is a decision for the party room, not for him."

Turnbull noted that Australia was lagging behind other English-speaking countries like Canada, New Zealand, the United States, England and Wales. He said:

"... people of the same sex can get married in Auckland and Wellington, Toronto and Ottawa and Vancouver, in New York and Los Angeles, and Baltimore, in Cape Town, but not Australia. It does start to look as if we're the ones out of step."

Tanya Plibersek, the Deputy Labor leader, announced that she will introduce a private member's bill to legalize same-sex marriage, but only if Mr Abbott allows a conscience vote.

According to

"Gay marriage advocate Rodney Croome said Mr Turnbull's comments reflected growing support within the coalition for a conscience vote and the principle of marriage equality.

'An increasing number of Australians feel embarrassed by the fact that marriage equality has moved forward in countries that are our closest friends and allies, including New Zealand, the UK, the US and Canada,' Mr Croome said in a statement.

The Greens Sarah Hanson-Young last week introduced a same-sex marriage bill into the Senate." 6

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2014-FEB-20: Greens bill to proceed in Western Australian Parliament:

Barry House, the Legislative Council President and Liberal MLC said that:

"There is no provision that I can see in either this State’s constitutional arrangements or the Commonwealth Constitution which would prevent this House from considering the bill introduced by Hon Lynn MacLaren."

MacLaren responded that House's:

"... ruling means that the state can properly consider adopting same-sex marriage, if successful WA will become the first Australian state to pass same-sex marriage legislation that is better built to resist a High Court challenge. ... I have worked with constitutional lawyer George Williams and other stakeholders on the issue to ensure that this bill has the best chance of surviving. My fantastic team have ensured this state bill does not contravene with federal legislation. ... This is an exciting milestone for same-sex couples that want to feel like any other Australian family where marriage is an accessible symbol of lifelong commitment. ... I look forward to debating this bill and building cross party support on the issue. 7

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2014-MAY-20: Senate Inquiry Launched into marriage equality:

The Senate opened its inquiry into the recognition by Australia of same-sex marriages solenmized in other countries. Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has introduced a bill: "Recognition of Foreign Marriages Bill 2014."

Rodney Croome, the national director of Australian Marriage Equality said:

"We encourage all supporters of marriage equality to send in submissions, particularly same-sex couples married overseas and those Australian expats living in countries with marriage equality. ... To make it easier for supporters to have their voices heard, we have set up a special webpage with information about the inquiry and the issues it raises, as well as a webform tailored to different aspects of the inquiry." 8


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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

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

  1. "Commonwealth to launch High Court challenge over ACT same-sex marriage laws," Australian Broadcasting Corp., 2013-OCT-23, at:
  2. "Same-sex couples make history with Canberra weddings," The Guardian, 2013-DEC-07, at:
  3. Daniel Hurst, "ACT gay marriage law is ruled invalid by high court of Australia," The Guardian, 2013-DEC-12, at:
  4. Nadine Walker, "Greens introduce same sex marriage bill in WA," Lynn MacLaren MLC. 2013-DEC-12, at:
  5. Nicholas Perpitch, "[WA] Same-sex law 'has better chance," National Affairs, The Australian, 2013-DEC-14, at:
  6. "Abbot 'does not expect' marriage bill," Sky News, 2013-DEC-15, at:
  7. Andrew Potts, "Western Australian Liberals allow Greens state gay marriage bill to move forward." GayStarNews, 2014-FEB-20, at:
  8. Rodney Croome, "Media Release: Call For Community Input As Senate Inquiry Launched," 2014-MAY-20, at:

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Copyright © 2013 & 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-DEC-17
Latest update: 2014-NOV-04
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