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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Australia

Part 12: 2014-MAR:
More Liberal party support for marriage equality.
Will Parliament hold a free vote on SSM soon?

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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 Australia 2015-MAR-23: Shift in support within the Liberal Party towards marriage equality:

The Sydney Morning Herald reports an upswing in support within the Liberal Party towards same-sex marriage. Some marriage equality advocates estimate that 11 Liberal Members of Parliament (MPs) have switched their position since January.

Judith Ireland, writing for the Herald said:

"Liberal MPs could discuss whether they should be granted a free vote on the issue as early as Tuesday [MAR-24], with Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm due to begin the parliamentary debate on his "freedom to marry" bill on Thursday [MAR-26]."

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

"Since the beginning of the year, 11 Coalition MPs and Senators have privately indicated to us they have switched to supporting marriage equality from being opposed or undecided. ... It is still hard to be sure exactly what the numbers are, but the trend is clear."

The Australian Marriage Equality group is advocating a free vote.

In contrast, the Australian Christian Lobby has been advocating that all Liberal Party MPs continue to be required to vote against marriage equality, regardless of their personal beliefs or the opinions of their constituency. Their managing director Lyle Shelton said:

"We believe that the party should vote as one on an issue as important as marriage." 1

Currently only Australia, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and 13 states & 5 territories in the United States are the only large English speaking locations in the world where same-sex marriage is still prohibited. Marriage equality is a hotly debated topic in all four countries. A referendum in Ireland approved marriage equality on MAY-22, and same-sex couples will be able to marry there shortly.

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2015-MAR-23/24: Will a free vote be held in Parliament soon?

Pedestrian TV reports:

"... the issue is set to re-emerge from the bubbling Sulfur pit that is Canberra 2 discussion and move back into the primary agenda. Liberal Democrat senator - and man of many conflicting political morals -- David Leyonhjelm -- is set to introduce his "Freedom to Marry" bill into Parliament, which he hopes will in turn force the Liberal Party to consider allowing a free vote on the issue. ... supporters of a same-sex marriage bill are now quietly confident that it would be able to pass the Senate with a slim majority. But the Lower House remains far murkier, with numbers harder to predict. This, in large part, is due to the unwillingness of those within the Coalition Government to publicly state their position on the matter, lest they upset the status quo and undermine the position of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is vehemently opposed to the bill." 3

The Australian government is organized along the Parliamentary system where individual Members of Parliament (MPs) are required to vote according to their Party's anti-equality position. Also, in common with most such systems, the definition of marriage across the entire country is established by the federal Parliament. However, on moral and ethical manners, MPs are often allowed a free vote -- to vote according to their conscience.

Scott Morrison, Australia's Minister for Social Services wrote a letter during mid-March to a constituent. He quoted the former Prime Minister, the Honourable John Howard who said:

"... marriage, as we understand it in our society, is about children, raising them, providing for the survival of the species, and I think if the same status is given in our society to gay unions as are given to traditional marriage we will weaken that bedrock institution. ..."

Morrison continued:

"For me this is ultimately about a child’s natural right to a mother and father. I believe that this right should be protected in all Commonwealth laws, especially the Marriage Act. I am extremely disappointed by the recent decision of the NSW [State of New South Wales] Parliament to legalise same sex adoption. However, I do not consider this error should be compounded by our federal parliament.

Family is the most important institution in our society. Religions and cultures over centuries have held that family is optimally based on the union of a man and woman. I do not believe that tested wisdom over centuries has been overwhelmed by more contemporary arguments. ..."

"I believe my responsibility is to be faithful to the principles and convictions I hold on this matter and to be up front and honest with my community about the reasons for holding this position.

On these matters, I will therefore continue my longstanding support for the definition of marriage in its current form as defined in the Marriage Act." 3

Those who are in favor of marriage equality often take a different approach. They focus on the status of individual same-sex couples and their children. Such couples are not permitted to marry. Thus they and their children lack really fundamental status, rights, privileges and protections that all opposite-sex marriage couples have. This puts such families at a serious disadvantage, If loving, committed same-sex couples were allowed to marry, families led by an opposite-sex couple would not be adversely affected. Marriage equality supporters argue that marriage equality would not adversely affect the children of opposite-sex couples and would greatly benefit the children of same-sex couples.

Pedestrian TV continues:

"The offensive notion that two people of the same gender (or, indeed, intersex) declaring their undying love for each in front of whatever family, God and Government they want somehow weakens the bedrock of society aside, it's again the weird assumption that allowing same-sex marriage means people who utilise it might otherwise have started a heteronormative family which is well beyond ludicrous. ..."

"History never looks kindly on those who champion old-world and religious reasoning as motivation to block societal change. We might not get there tomorrow, but we will one day, in spite of idiocy like this." 3

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Australia's Prime Minister, the Honourable Tony Abbott, was trained as a Roman Catholic seminarian, and has been the leader of the Liberal Party since 2009. He has been the Prime Minister of Australia since 2013 and is strongly opposed to marriage equality. 4 It remains to be seen whether the growing support for same-sex marriage among the public in Australia and among the Liberal legislators will be sufficient to override Abbott's authority, and bring marriage equality to a free vote. There may have to be some indication that the Liberal party is losing support among the public before a free vote is authorized.

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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. Judith Ireland, "Numbers inside Liberal Party swing in favour of marriage equality as email campaign hots up," Sydney Morning Herald, 2015-MAR-23, at:
  2. Canberra is the capital city of Australia and is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Parliament is located there. It is Australia's largest inland city with a population of about 381,000. See "Canberra" in Wikipedia as on 2015-MAR-24, at:
  3. "Surprise: Scott Morrison's explanation for why he opposes same-sex marriage is terrible," Pedestrian TV, 2015-MAR-23, at:
  4. "Tony Abbott," Wikipedia, as on 2015-MAR-24, at:
  5. Jared Owens, "Liberals reject Australian Christian Lobby same-sex marriage claim," The Australian, 2015-MAR-24, at:
  6. "Gay marriage referendum in Australia dismissed by Tony Abbott, Bill Shorten as Ireland votes for change," Australian Broadcasting Commission, 2015-MAY-24, at:
  7. "Same-sex marriage referendum in Australia would just be a 'big opinion poll'," The Guardian, 2015-MAY-24, at:

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Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2015-MAR-24
Latest update: 2015-MAY-24
Assembled by: B.A. Robinson

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