Australia's ruling party backs gay marriage

2011-12-03 09:27

Sydney - Australia's ruling Labour Party on Saturday agreed to support gay marriage, but consented to lawmakers voting with their conscience on the issue should a same-sex marriage bill come to parliament.

After passionate and emotional speeches from both sides of the debate at the Australian Labour Party conference in Sydney, delegates agreed to change their party platform in favour of marriage equality for gay couples.

The decision, which is at odds with Prime Minister Julia Gillard's support for a national ban on same-sex marriage, was met with rousing applause from the 400 delegates and hailed by supporters as historic.

In opening the debate, Gillard had called for respectful discussion as she acknowledged division within the party on the issue.

"You all know what my views on this debate are and I know many in this hall do not agree with my views," she said.

"But what is the most important thing is that as we have this debate in this hall, we have this debate in a climate and atmosphere of respect."

Conscience vote

Gillard, who has said her government will not seek to change the Marriage Act which defines the union as between a man and a woman, had called for the party to accept a conscience vote on the issue.

Her proposal was accepted by a vote of 208 to 184. The vote to change the platform to support gay marriage was accepted on voices.

A move to allow gay marriage will likely fail in parliament, given that the conservative opposition does not support it, unless opposition members are allowed a conscience vote as well.

Gillard said the conscience vote was "the right decision". "I wanted to have a conscience vote and we will," she told reporters.

Andrew Barr, the Deputy Chief Minister for the Australian Capital Territory who had called on the national conference to support gay marriage, said a private member's bill on the issue would likely go to parliament in 2012.

"Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians are part of our community," he said.

"We're not nameless, faceless people who live on the margins of society.

"We deserve the respect and the dignity afforded to others. We deserve equality."

His amendment was seconded by Australia's Finance Minister Penny Wong, who said the relationships and aspirations of gays and lesbians were no different from those of their fellow Australians.

But others within the party, including union leader Joe de Bruyn, argued that changing the platform would cost votes among traditional Labour ranks as the minority government struggles in the polls.

Federal legislation

In Australia marriage is mandated by federal legislation, so although civil same-sex unions are recognised in five states, the couples are not seen as "married" by the federal government.

All the same, same-sex couples have equal rights with heterosexual couples in areas such as pension schemes and medical benefits.

The issue of same-sex marriage was repeatedly raised during the 2010 election and more than 5 000 people rallied in support of gay rights outside the national conference on Saturday.

With some wearing bridal dresses and others carrying gay pride flags, the colourful procession chanted "Julia Gillard, ALP, we demand equality" and carried banners such as "Save the economy, give us a gift registry" as they made their way to the Darling Harbour convention centre.

National convenor of Australian Marriage Equality Alex Greenwich said he was disappointed that the matter would become a conscience vote but hailed the decision as a sign of movement towards marriage equality.

"The momentum for change is unstoppable because marriage equality is an issue which resonates with fundamental Australian values like fairness and inclusion," he said.

  • Fidel - 2011-12-03 11:01

    Marriage should be removed entirely from government control and all relationships, of all kinds, should become entirely private matters.

      Fred - 2011-12-03 16:52

      Agreed. But the religious fundies are going to go ape because they shout about on verse in Leviticus and ignore the other strictures about eating shell fish and wearing clothes of mixed fibres. True hypocrites.

      Dirk - 2011-12-03 20:20

      Marriage by definition, is a union between a man and a woman.I am glad that I was taught that the meaning of gay was to be happy. It would seem that the homosexual and lesbian "community" have now embraced this to describe themselves. Why not just call themselves what they are- homosexuals, or if you find that too long, just homos. There are a few other names as well.

      Dirk - 2011-12-03 20:25

      Basset- Not just Leviticus, Romans 1-2 and a few others. Sodom was raised to the ground because of homosexuality. We may yet see a few" urban renewal programs" in the future

      Fred - 2011-12-03 20:45

      @Dirk The usual bigoted crap from a hypocritical god believer.

  • Andreas - 2011-12-03 11:15

    In the context of ongoing discussion, the same sex marriage should not be viewed as a problem of morality, religion, culture, tradition, and even sexuality. This is a human rights issue of whether an individual has the absolute right to choose a life companion regardless of relevant moral, religious, and cultural values dominating in society. Such a fundamental human right of an individual should prevail, and society must accept and protect this right of an individual.

      Fidel - 2011-12-03 11:33

      The attempts to legislate morality is extremely annoying to me. Maybe it is a natural human tendency to want their way to be best? Consensual action between adults should be a private matter, and I find it annoying and intrusive that a minority within the population is, in essence, attempting to tell others what to think, feel, believe, and act. It is a coercive act, and I have an instinct to push against it. I don't know many homosexuals. But the individuals in the general population seem alright. It's the activists I can't stand; a little bit too petulant and earnest, like a child who can't have a cookie, NOW!

      Colin - 2011-12-03 17:24

      Of course "marriage" cannot be "redefined". It already has an exact and definite meaning. The human rights issue here, is that of a gay minority seeking to impose their preferences on a greater majority. We already have equal rights, including the option of homosexual relationship should we so choose. But such relationships are NOT marriage. How hard can it be? Make up your own term for it people! Please stop trying to manipulate with redefinitions and claims of denied rights. Guess which Australian minority has the worst public relations? I wonder why! :).

  • Vuyo - 2011-12-03 18:32

    Marriage (like religion) is a man made institution.

      Dirk - 2011-12-03 20:28

      Which then means that you are an accident

  • Cracker - 2011-12-03 19:30

    Live and let live but don't push it. The gay community must realize for their own good and safety that the numbers are against them. Call marriage something else if applying it to same or similar sex or compatibility partners. Rather just demand the same financial legal consequences out of a fomalization of the relationship. Go to your gay church and formalize the rest to your heart's content. Don't push it. Let the law reflect the same financial consequences as it does to heterosexual unions but get away from the idea that society at large - in many instances AT LARGE IN CAPITALS - will continue to accept what gays are demanding. Don't overplay your hand. The numbers and sentiment are against you. Ignore the warning at your peril.

      Phoenix - 2011-12-03 22:34

      Same-sex marriage (and yup it is just called marriage) has been legal in South Africa since 2006. So err..... ?

      Cracker - 2011-12-03 22:53

      @ Phoenix I know.

  • eugene.joshua - 2011-12-03 19:47

    Colin, you are sorely mistaken by saying 'marriage' cannot be redefined. It has been redefined so many times in the past and it will be redefined in the future too! In the past marriage meant that the woman was property, first of her father and then of her husband. A man could have more than one wife and you were only supposed to marry within your tribe. In Egypt and elsewhere royalty entered into incestuous marriages. Later on, closer to our time marriage was restricted to one man and one wife, but only for certain classes, as slaves could not marry. Until even recent times inter-racial marriages were banned. Gays and lesbians are not imposing anything. They simply want equal rights, by excluding them you are asserting special rights for yourself!

      Colin - 2011-12-04 22:39

      Hi Eugene. You're describing particular social constraints and provisions that are placed on marriage, rather than changes of the marriage definition itself. To address one example, a society that practices "slavery" will apply the requirements of slavery to all it's institutions including marriage. This homosexual minority is demanding access to an institution to which they do not qualify. The institution of marriage represents the lifetime union of a man and a woman (a couple of opposite sex). It places a legal, religious and social validation on the relationship, and very importantly provides the children with THEIR right of claim to a Mother and Father - two parents representing both sexes. It's all about the children and their rights. It's all about the normal (natural reproducing) sex. It provides the legality of FAMILY, and as the polls do show, what's most important to most Australians - is FAMILY. The demand for such a radical change to the definition of Marriage, is actually a demand of validation and acceptance. It's the demand that I should condone and accept life choices of homosexuality. A rude demand and trivial convenience, in the light of it's consequential attack on children's rights and family. It should be understood that Marriage is an institution at the core of society. Many people place extreme value on it's meaning and definition, often in a sincere religious manner. Some respect for other people and their beliefs would seem in order here.

  • eugene.joshua - 2011-12-03 19:52

    Cracker, I wonder if you are smoking your socks! In your twisted thinking minorities should then have no rights whatsoever! Imagine what would happen in our country if we applied your undemocratic and illogical ideas! Read the report again: most Australians support equal rights and hence equal access to marriage for gays and lesbians!

      Cracker - 2011-12-03 20:15

      I am stating a simple fact. Don't overplay your hand. My thinking is not twisted. Don't use absolutes in your arguments unless the facts allow it. We are not dealing with rational thinking from the opponents to gay relationships. As I said, don't push it. Calling something a right (or a minority one) will not change reality.

  • eugene.joshua - 2011-12-03 20:00

    Fidel, gay activists are 'earnest and petulant', really? Wonder how petulant you would get if your right to marriage is taken away from you? There are couples who have been together for years and even decades, people like all of us, who happen to be gay or lesbian, but they are not allowed to get married, with all the protection a marriage entails. Who would not get 'earnest' about that?

      Cracker - 2011-12-03 20:34

      Let the obvious be re-stated. Call it something else. Let the partners sign some legal agreement acknowledged by law. End of matter. The rest can be formalized wherever and however. Just don't overplay the demand. Think it through. My comments are not anti-gay. Live your life as you choose but don't overplay it.

  • eugene.joshua - 2011-12-03 21:57

    Cracker, your arguments don't hold water at all! In areas where gay people were granted 'civil unions' they are still being discriminated against because people are refusing to recognise them on par with 'marriage'. When Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement demanded their equal rights, people also said 'don't push it too far!' History is on the side of equal rights, the tide is turning and nothing less than equal rights to marriage will suffice! Everyone knows what is meant by marriage, the same cannot be said for a civil union! It is furthermore illogical to reserve one word for straight people and one word for gay and lesbians when there is no logical reason for it! There ought to be no second class citizens!

  • eugene.joshua - 2011-12-03 22:08

    Vuyo is right, marriage is a man-made institution. The church only got involved in the marriage business very late, after the 10th century, before that a couple made a promise to each other in front of everyone and signed a contract. They did not necessarily seek the church's blessing. Furthermore, marriage was restricted to the nobility.

  • Phoenix - 2011-12-03 22:41

    I really don't understand why people are still carrying on about this in SA. Gay people have been getting married since 2006 and what effect did it have on your hetero marriage? None. In addition, statistics from last year shows that gay people are significantly less likely to get divorced than straight people. All people have a right to live their lives according to the law. You don't like it? Fine - but gay people do not need your acceptance or approval to live their lives within the confines of the law like everyone else. Some people are gay - and get married: get over it.

  • eugene.joshua - 2011-12-04 02:18

    Well said, Phoenix, let's hope Australia sees the light soon and join us in granting marriage equality! I have conducted over 40 same sex weddings and it is amazing to see the joy and commitment like any other couple!

  • Colin - 2011-12-06 14:43

    Perhaps it's the last sad pitiful effort of an ailing political party, suffering from an unfortunate "marriage" with the browns (there's nothing green in that particular policy statement!). It's so sad to have Australia's first female Prime Minister - thrust upon us (who voted her in?), performing in so mediocre a fashion. Thanks Julia, we do like you - we know you tried - it really IS the Labour party's fault. We will remember with fond affection. But next please :). The fact is that the "Marriage" definition IS at the core of our society. It has many meanings and ramifications above and beyond simple convenience of access. Many Australians hold it's meaning and definition at extreme value, seeing it of major religious significance. So the issue will probably resolve with the passing of the Labour Party- Up next. A Conservative Government will presumably restore matters to majority preferences. But if not we ARE going to need to demand a National Referendum on the issue of Marriage redefinition. Now there's a win-win situation. How can we not go along with the actual Majority preference? I'm okay with that. Are you? Let's make no mistake. It's no more a matter of "equality" or "human rights", than is my demand to receive the benefits of Aboriginal ethnic provisions of law - when I'm WHITE.. Why don't I qualify? Denial of rights? Well no. Why would I even bother to harass other people with that? Actually I would not.

  • pages:
  • 1