What’s the debate?
The current marriage act in Australia states that marriage is to be between a man and a woman. Same-sex couples in Australia are recognised as defacto, having the same rights as heterosexual defacto couples. Despite growing public support and lobbying by various marriage equality groups, same-sex couples are not allowed to marry in any of the states or territories in Australia.
The following is a timeline outlining the changes to the marriage act and developments in marriage equality;
Marriage Amendment Bill (2004) – the then Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock introduced the Marriage Amendment Bill 2004 which incorporated the common law definition of marriage (marriage between a man and a woman only). In June 2004, the bill passed the House of Representatives and on 13 August 2004, the Senate passed the amendment 38 votes to 6. This amendment also stated that same-sex couples who married overseas would not have their marriage recognised in Australia.
Same-Sex Marriages Bill (2006) – Senator Natasha Stott Despoja introduced a private member’s bill that aimed to reverse the changes made to the Marriage Act in 2004. The bill stalled and is still on the Parliament’s current bill list.
Same-Sex Marriages Bill (2008 – Tasmania) – Greens MP Nick McKim introduced the Same-Sex Marriage Bill 2008 into Tasmania’s House of Assembly in July 2008.McKim introduced a similar bill to the House in April 2005.Neither bill has progressed to a Second Reading.
Marriage Equality Amendment Bill (2009) – Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young introduced the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009 which would legislate same-sex marriage. The bill would amend the Marriage Act 1961, removing all discrimination based on sexuality and gender, and allowing marriage regardless sexuality, gender or sex. The bill was rejected by the Senate on 25 February 2010.
2011 Conscience Vote – the ALP has voted in favour of same-sex marriage. Despite Julia Gillard personally opposing it, she has allowed members of the ALP to take a conscience vote (each member could vote based on their own decisions, not the party’s). This conscience vote saw the ALP voting in favour of same-sex marriage, with the conscience vote being carried 208 votes to 184.