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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Australia

Part 13: 2015-March to May:
Claim by Australian Christian Lobby.
Will the Irish referendum have an
impact on Australian politics?

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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 Australia2015-MAR-24: The Australian Christian Lobby issues a claim that is denied by the Liberals:

The Australian Christian Lobby issued a statement titled: "Liberals' Party Room holds the line on marriage." It said:

"The Australian Christian Lobby has welcomed news that the Liberal Party will continue to vote as one on marriage. With advocates for redefining marriage aggressively lobbying Liberal MPs and senators ahead of this morning’s party room meeting, more than 20,000 Australians responded by emailing Liberal parliamentarians urging them to continue to vote as one." 1

However, The Australian newspaper said that no such meeting took place, and no such conclusion has been reached,

The joint Coalition parties did hold a meeting. However, a spokesperson stated:

"The issue did not come up." 1

On MAR-23, Rodney Croome, spokesperson for Australian Marriage Equality said:

"It’s time for the Liberal and National parties to live up to their principle of individual freedom by allowing their parliamentary members the freedom to vote for marriage equality." 1

It appears that the Australian Christian Lobby interpreted no action on this matter as a decision to retain the prohibition against a free vote.

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2015-MAY-22: Will the Irish referendum on same-sex marriage inspire legislators in Australia to follow suit?

Over 60% of those who voted in the Irish referendum favored allowing same-sex couples to marry. That leaves Australia, Northern Ireland, and 13 state/five territories in the United States as the only large predominately English-speaking countries in the world that still restrict marriage to one woman and one-man.

Lawsuits were underway at the time in both Northern Ireland and the United States to attain marriage equality. A little over a month later, on 2015-JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriages across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four out of five U.S. Territories. Most people in the territory of American Samoa are considered American Residents, not American citizens. Thus, the rulings of the High Court do not necessarily apply to them.

Some observers believe that the victory for equality in Ireland will put pressure on Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to allow a free vote in Parliament. It might also convince additional legislators to support same-sex marriage.

Senator Zed Seselja of the Liberal Party suggested that Australia should have a similar referendum to Ireland's. He said:

"If you are going to make such a fundamental change it should go to a referendum. I think there is a reasonable argument for that." 2

Many civil-rights advocates oppose referendums because they feel that elementary human rights -- like the right to marry -- should not be allowed or denied by a popular vote. However, no matter how or when Australia's marriage ban is changed, it will be the result of a vote of some sort. It may be a plebiscite by the public, a majority vote in Parliament, or a majority vote by judges in a senior court.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott (Liberal) commented about a bill to attain marriage equality in Australia. He said that:

"Questions of marriage are the preserve of the Commonwealth Parliament. Referendums are held in this country where there's a proposal to change the constitution. I don't think anyone is suggesting the constitution needs to be changed in this respect. ..."

"Plainly this is a matter which could quite properly come before the commonwealth parliament if members of parliament wanted it to be raised. ... I don’t know if and when it’s going to come before our parliament again. It came before our parliament in the last term and was dealt with fairly decisively. If it comes before our parliament again, our party room will deal with it. Our party room will decide whether our existing policy continues or not and then we’ll have a good debate." 3,4

He indicated that he was the last member of his immediate family to still oppose marriage equality for Australia.

A spokesperson for Marriage Equality Australia said that the elimination of the ban on same-sex marriage in the traditionally conservative and predominantly Catholic Ireland will remove any doubt that marriage equality could be achieved in Australia well.

Senator Nick Xenophon (Independent) said that:

"I think the best approach is that there be a [free] conscience vote in the parliament ... after all, it has been an election issue." 2

Scott Ludlam, the deputy leader of the Greens, commented:

"There were reports last week that we may be four votes short in the House of Representatives and we might be able to carry a majority in the Senate." 2

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Senator David Leyonhjelm, (Liberal Democrat), is preparing a bill that would allow a free/conscience vote in Parliament. He said:

"The traditional argument [for legalizing same-sex marriage] is equality ... my argument is it’s not the government’s business what gender person you are allowed to marry." 2

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young (Greens) issued a statement saying:

"There is nothing in the Australian constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. A vote by parliament is all that is needed and Tony Abbott should allow his party a [free conscience] vote on the subject. Cupid doesn't discriminate and neither should the law." 5

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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. Jared Owens, "Liberals reject Australian Christian Lobby same-sex marriage claim," The Australian, 2015-MAR-24, at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/
  2. Liberal MP calls for referendum on same-sex marriage after Ireland vote," The Guardian, 2015-MAY-24, at: https://www.theguardian.com/
  3. Susie O'Brien, "Tony Abbott should prioritize gay marriage vote," Herald Sun, 2015-MAY-25, at: http://blogs.news.com.au/
  4. "Same-sex marriage referendum in Australia would just be a 'big opinion poll'," The Guardian, 2015-MAY-24, at: https://www.theguardian.com/
  5. "Gay marriage referendum in Australia dismissed by Tony Abbott, Bill Shorten as Ireland votes for change," Australian Broadcasting Commission, 2015-MAY-24, at: http://www.abc.net.au/

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Copyright © 2015 and 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2015-MAR-24
Latest update: 2016-AUG-05
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