Australia PM proposes vote on same-sex marriage

Australia PM proposes vote on same-sex marriage

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[JURIST] Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard [official website] said Tuesday that, while she is personally opposed to same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive], the decision should be left to parliamentary vote [SMH op-ed]. Gillard called on the Australian Labor Party [party website] to back her adamant position that the institution of marriage has a particular meaning and should remain unchanged:

Many will ask, what is my personal opinion and where do I stand in the debate? As I have said many times, I support maintaining the Marriage Act in its current form, and the government will not move legislation to change it. My position flows from my strong conviction that the institution of marriage has come to have a particular meaning and standing in our culture and nation and that should continue unchanged. The Labor Party platform currently reflects this view.

Her opinion has come under attack by members of her own party as well as by parties on the liberal left, such as the Greens [party website], who believe that legislatively recognizing consenting adults’ right to choose, regardless of sexual identity, is the modern trend and essential for marriage equality. Currently only three Australian states recognize civil unions, though a poll shows that a majority of Australians favor same-sex marriage.

Australia historically has had a tumultuous past protecting the rights of same-sex couples but nevertheless denying the right to same-sex marriage. In May 2008, the Australian government abandoned a proposal [JURIST report] to legally recognize same-sex civil union ceremonies after the Australian federal government threatened to veto Civil Partnerships Bill 2006 [legislative materials] if it passed the Legislative Assembly [official websites]. Australian Capital Territory Attorney General Simon Corbell said that the self-governing territory will now move to legalize civil partnerships without ceremony so that same-sex couples can have access to Commonwealth pensions, tax and social security benefits. The Civil Partnerships Bill was introduced after an earlier civil unions law [legislative materials] was actually overturned by the federal government [JURIST report] because that law’s attempt to equate civil unions with marriage was determined to be unacceptable. In April of 2008, the Australian government introduced legislation to amend over 100 federal laws [press release] to remove discrimination against same-sex couples but continued to bar same-sex marriage.