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Religious Tolerance logo

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

Part 10: 2014-JUN to NOV: Polls show an
overwhelming majority favor marriage
equality. Same-sex marriage legal battle
costs ACT over $800,000.

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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 Australia2014-JUL-15: Public opinion poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Australians favor marriage equality:

A poll by Crosby Textor was commissioned by the Australian Marriage Equality organization. The results were:

  • 72% of Australian adults want to see same-sex marriage legalized. To our knowledge, this value is significantly higher than that found in any other country, with the possibility of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It is also higher than every state and national poll in the U.S. which only in 2015 reached above 60%.

    [This is a significant increase in support over that measured by an earlier Nielsen poll in Australia during 2013-AUG. At that time, "only" 65% of Australian adults supported marriage equality.]

  • 21% are opposed to same-sex marriage.

  • 7% had no opinion or refused to answer.

  • A majority of persons from every Australian state favor marriage equality.

  • A majority of the Roman Catholic laity favor same-sex marriage, as do Anglicans, and members of non-Christian religions.

  • Among adults raising children, 85% support marriage equality!

  • Support was least among adults over 65 years-of-age who were 48% in favor, and among men over 55 years-of-age who were 42% in favor. In both cases, a plurality was still in favor of marriage equality.

  • 77% believe that Coalition MPs should be allowed to vote according to their conscience.

Lisa Cox, writing for the Good Fruit & Vegetables web site said that on the previous day:

"Liberal Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm challenged Prime Minister Tony Abbott to allow his [Liberal Party] MPs a free vote on same-sex marriage and said he would move a private member's bill to amend the federal marriage act as soon as that happened." 1

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In the 2013 elections, the governing Coalition, which is formed from the Liberal Party, Liberal National Party, National Party, and Country Liberal Party, won 90 of the 150 seats in Parliament to form a majority government. The Honourable Tony Abbott of the Liberal Party is Prime Minister. The main opposition is the Australian Labour Party.

In spite of the overwhelming support in the country for same-sex marriage , the policy of the federal Coalition remains out of touch with the general population. They still remain opposed to marriage equality. They currently require all of their members to vote against any marriage equality bill that comes before Parliament.

An Australian Senate committee investigated the possibility of introducing a bill to recognize marriages in Australia that have been legally solemnized by same-sex couples in another country. This partial step might be more acceptable to conservatives in Australia because they would still live in a country where the LGBT community was discriminated against by the banning of same-sex couples' marriage ceremonies. Yet such a development would allow same-sex couples to easily take a brief vacation in nearby New Zealand, marry there, return to Australia, and be recognized as married.

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2014-NOV-03: Central government reveals cost of High Court challenge to ACT same-sex marriage law:

During 2013-DEC, the High Court found that the law passed by the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was incompatible with the federal Commonwealth Marriage Act because the Australian Constitution restricted the authority to issue marriage legislation solely to the federal Parliament. Thus the ACT law was declared unconstitutional and void. ACT had to pay for court and legal costs.

ACT had argued that its law had recognized same-sex relationships in a manner that was different from marriage, and was thus constitutional. However, the high court rejected their argument.

This decision required the ACT government to pay $500,000 to the Commonwealth Government. In addition, the cost of hiring external lawyers was $122,000, and the cost of work performed by the government lawyers was about $200,000. The total cost to ACT was about $822,000 Australian dollars, which was equivalent to about $715,000 U.S. dollars at the time.

On NOV-03, Solicitor-General Peter Garrisson told a Legislative Assembly hearing

"I believe, presented with the government's initiative and the advice that I provided with other Senior Counsel to government, that we would do very little different."

"The issues, whilst dealt with in short compass by the High Court, addressed some pretty fundamental issues that to that point had not been resolved. The nature and scope, for example, of the marriage power, the nature and scope of the Commonwealth Marriage Act, had not been canvassed in this environment."

"My own view is I don't think I would have changed any of the advice we gave. No matter is entirely risk free and we now have a greater body of knowledge about the operation of the Commonwealth Marriage Act.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said that he:

"makes no apology for defending the principle of marriage equality in the High Court. The ACT Government legislated for marriage equality and then defended it in the High Court because it believes same-sex couples should have the same rights as other couples."

Tom McIlroy, writing for the Canberra Times, said:

"Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek and Liberal Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm have both proposed new bills on same-sex marriage. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said any changes to marriage laws will be a matter for the Coalition party room." 3

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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. Lisa Cox, "Poll shows growing support for same-sex marriage," Sydney Morning Herald, 2014-JUL-15, at: http://www.smh.com.au/
  2. Lisa Cox, "Poll shows growing support for same-sex marriage," Good Fruit & Vegetables, 2014-JUL-15, at: http://www.goodfruitandvegetables.com.au/
  3. Tom McIlroy, "Same-sex marriage costs the ACT more than $800,000," Canberra Times, 2014-NOV-03, at: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/

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Copyright © 2012014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2014-NOV-04
Latest update: 2015-MAR-23
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