“Marriage law still a concern in Australia today”February 20th, 2018
by Cody Mitchell
Same-sex marriage became law in Australia on 8th December 2017. The change passed Parliament on what was for some a momentous occasion, and for others a day that will ‘live in infamy’.
On that day 128 legislators sat facing the ‘Fearless Four’ who opposed the change. For many months prior to the Parliamentary vote, a vicious and divisive debate had raged. On 7th September, the High Court ruled that a government-commissioned voluntary survey was able to proceed.
Both the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader, along with numerous high profile figures, business leaders and sporting codes supported the redefinition. Only two federally represented minor political parties, the Conservatives and the Australian Party, stood against it. The governing Liberal, National and Liberal National parties were divided (with a majority in support within the Liberal Party). The Labor Party, the Australian Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team, the Liberal Democrats, the Justice Party and the Jacqui Lambie Network supported the change.
When the survey results came back on 15th November, it was clear that the warnings of figures like former Prime Ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott, former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, political writer Paul Kelly and others had fallen on deaf ears. Of participating Australians, 61.6 per cent marked ‘Yes’ on their ballot papers. Only 13 electorates, mostly from multicultural areas, had voted no. The Prime Minister vowed to make the change law by Christmas.
Finally, after much debate and many failed amendments, the bill passed the Senate 12 to 43. In the House of Representatives, still having failed to secure any extra religious freedoms in the bill, Prime Minister Turnbull sat with 127 members behind him on the ‘Aye’ side of the chamber. Four people voted against the bill and 12 abstained.
While accepting the results of the poll, the official ‘No’ organisations vowed to continue their stand. Damian Wyld from the Marriage Alliance said, “We may have lost the survey vote, but that doesn’t mean we will stop believing the truth about man-woman marriage – or worrying about the consequences that would follow in the wake of attempting to redefine it. I also believe that our rights are innate. They are not the Parliament’s to give and to remove as they please. Freedom of speech, conscience, religion, association – plus parents’ and children’s rights – should not be considered as mere “exemptions” to some new regime.”
The Australian Christian Lobby’s former Managing Director, Lyle Shelton stated, “Almost five million Australians voted No and at least one million of those were Yes voters who were persuaded by our campaign to vote No…as Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz pointed out in an email, this represents a higher vote than the Coalition’s current primary vote, a higher vote than Labor’s at the last federal election, and more support than that of One Nation and the Greens combined.”
A Coalition for Marriage spokesperson wrote the following in an email to supporters: “Those who seek to place restrictions on freedom of speech or freedom of belief will face tough opposition from millions of Australians who understand how a change in law is used to silence those who disagree. Those who seek to push these ideologies through our schools and institutions will not get away with it so easily.”
Many LGBTIQ activists here in Australia say that legalising same-sex marriage was their ultimate goal, but some people believe there is a further agenda. In the United Kingdom, the Greens Party say they are now ‘open’ to legalising polygamous marriages. This is after same-sex marriage was legalised barely seven years ago, in 2011. Is Australia headed in that direction? The answer is definitely not clear. But one thing is certain: Neither side of this debate will give up the fight in the foreseeable future.
I hope that Australia can, firstly, strive to focus more on common human values that unite us, not on topics that divide us. If we have learned anything from this marriage debate it is that Australians must agree to disagree more. To quote the Australian Jazz group, the Idea of North: “What makes a person so poisonous righteous, that they think less of anyone who just disagrees?”
We must give all people the opportunity to have their say and to make a positive difference in the way that they believe is most effective. Secondly, Australia must unite in defence of our common Aussie values of liberty, equity and a fair go for all. We need to support – not some – but all of these values for – not a few – but all people. Australia’s first black African Senator, Lucy Gichuhi, said recently: “I know for sure that there’s a tendency to take our government and way of life for granted; forgetting that there’s a social and civic obligation that comes with living in a society as free as Australia.”
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