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Same-Sex Marriage: A Political Hot-Potato in Australia – May 2015

Same-Sex Marriage: A Political Hot-Potato in Australia – May 2015

Bill Shoerten making announcement

BILL SHORTEN TO PULL TRIGGER ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

Sydney Morning Herald – May 27, 2015

Political Correspondent – Mark Kenny

Labor leader Bill Shorten will ratchet up the pace on same-sex marriage next week, forcing his own party and the Parliament to deal with the issue quickly via a private member’s bill to be co-sponsored by his deputy leader, Tanya Plibersek. The bold move, which follows the historic yes vote in favour of marriage equality in the socially conservative Republic of Ireland last weekend, was signed off by shadow cabinet on Monday “I know this private member’s bill will not have the universal support of my colleagues,” Mr Shorten told Fairfax Media.

“It will challenge the deeply held personal beliefs of MPs and senators on both sides of politics [but] I believe the time has well and truly come for the Parliament to debate marriage equality.   “Our current law excludes some individuals, and to me, that is unacceptable.” The move reflects Mr Shorten’s success in seeing off a Left faction preference for a binding vote of Labor MPs on same-sex marriage once it had been agreed by the ALP national conference in July. It also represents a growing confidence by pro-reform MPs including Mr Shorten, the Greens, and some Liberals, that the numbers in Parliament have slowly but surely shifted in their favour, pointing towards possible success in the House of Representatives, subject to a free vote being granted to all Liberal and Nationals MPs.

The manoeuvre is calculated to force Prime Minister Tony Abbott to confront that question more quickly than he had hoped as pro-change MPs and senators seek to bring on a long-promised party room discussion of same-sex marriage. However, it is not without its internal advantages for Mr Shorten, with a quick parliamentary debate sought ahead of Labor’s national conference mid-year, thus avoiding heated arguments from mainly Catholic-aligned Right faction MPs and the powerful retail workers’ union, the SDA.

Mr Abbott has previously promised to facilitate such a discussion on his side and has indicated he is open to a free vote of all Liberals – including cabinet ministers – if that is the party room’s wish. “For marriage equality to happen, Tony Abbott has to give his MPs a free vote,” Mr Shorten said. He said the current law said to some people, “your relationships are not equally valued by the state, your love is less equal under the law”. “It excludes couples that are already together in loving relationships – have been for many years, and are entitled to have that love recognised equally under the law.”

Labor’s move also comes as the Greens party stepped up its campaign for same-sex marriage, bringing forward a Senate debate on the party’s marriage equality bill next month, in a bid to stir Federal Parliament into action on same-sex marriage. The Greens also set November 12 for a Senate vote on the bill, before Parliament rises for the summer. The Labor-sponsored bill could see government MPs seek to replace the opposition bill with proposed legislation of their own, rasing the prospects of success for the social reform which just months ago appeared to be stalled. Mr Abbott admitted in recent days that he was the last hold-out in his own family, in comments some interpreted as a possible precursor to his own stance softening.

A succession of opinion polls suggests a clear majority of Australians support changing the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples but have been denied that reform by a more conservative political class. Announcing proposed changes to the Citizenship Act to enable foreign fighters to be more easily denied citizenship when joining non-state combatants such as ISIL in Iraq and Syria, Mr Abbott justified the change as merely updating the laws to make them more contemporary.

Marriage equality campaigners have been arguing for a broader definition of marriage on precisely the same justification – to reflect the contemporary society in which the laws apply. Several Labor MPs and senators are expected to cross the floor when the matter comes to a parliamentary vote but recent counts suggest a parliamentary majority is now present. However Mr Shorten’s ploy may already have backfired by drumming up more opponents than supporters. Liberal frontbencher Simon Birmingham attacked the Shorten motion as a stunt putting his own advancement above that of the issue. “It is entirely counterproductive to elevate the partisanship of this matter. It reeks of being about Bill Shorten’s popularity more than about achieving marriage equality,” said Senator Birmingham.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/bill-shorten-to-pull-trigger-on-samesex-marriage-20150526-gha3s0.html    

Bill Shorten all Smiles

BILL SHORTEN RELEASES DETAILS OF LABOR’S SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BILL

Sydney Morning Herald – May 29, 2015

James Massola

The words “man and woman” and “husband and wife” will be replaced by “two people” in the Marriage Act under Bill Shorten’s proposal to redefine marriage in Australia. Under the changes gay couples who have already married overseas would have their unions recognised under Australian law, with the repeal of section 88EA of the Act. And, as flagged by Mr Shorten earlier this week, ministers of religion and other authorised celebrants will not be required to solemnise a marriage where the parties to the marriage are of the same sex.

The Labor leader’s bill to legalise same-sex marriage in Australia, which will be introduced to Federal Parliament on Monday, defines marriage as  “the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”. The current definition in the Marriage Act, which would be replaced, states it is “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”.

The repeal of section 88EA and the redefinition of marriage as between two people would reverse former prime minister John Howard’s 2004 amendments to the Act. The same-sex marriage bill, Marriage Amendment (Marriage Equality) Bill 2015, allows a union between two people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status. And there is greater detail in the bill than Labor MP Stephen Jones’ 2012 amendment to the Marriage Act – which was voted down – in that it spells out the word “partner” can be used instead of “husband” or “wife”.

The release of the bill comes as momentum for an alternative, cross-party same sex marriage bill grows. Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young confirmed she had also had discussions with Liberal MP Warren Entsch and Labor MP Graham Perrett about backing a “tri-partisan bill” that would end the political impasse over the issue. At the same time, two more Labor MPs, Stephen Jones and Amanda Rishworth, have conceded that a compromise cross-party bill – rather than the bill proposed by Mr Shorten – may offer the best chance to pass the social reform.

Fairfax Media revealed on Thursday that Mr Entsch and Mr Perrett had discussed and were prepared to work on a compromise bill if Mr Shorten’s push stalls in the Parliament. Since then, Mr Perrett has appeared to cool on the idea, telling ABC News Radio the proposal was “idle chatter” and tweeting “there is no other legislation other than the @billshortenmp piece. I’m happy to work with Warren & Theresa [Gambaro, another Liberal supporter of same-sex marriage] on supporting it.” But Senator Hanson-Young told Fairfax Media on Friday that she believed a co-operative approach was required to pass the reform and confirmed she was involved in discussions too about the three political parties jointly sponsoring a bill.

“Both Warren and Graham are wonderful advocates and of course the Greens have been at the forefront but we were never going to be able to do it on our own,” she said. “I obviously can’t sponsor a lower house bill from the Senate, but in terms of it being a Labor-Greens-Liberal bill, I have spoken directly to them both about it.” On Friday, Liberal MP Alan Tudge told Sky News it appeared Mr Perrett had been pressured by Mr Shorten’s office to withdraw support for a co-sponsored bill, though Mr Perrett said that was rubbish.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/bill-shorten-releases-details-of-labors-samesex-marriage-bill-20150529-ghcinb.html

PM Tony Abbot speaking about Same sex marriage

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE VOTE ‘SHOULD BE OWNED BY THE PARLIAMENT’: TONY ABBOTT

Sydney Morning Herald – May 27, 2015

Judith Ireland – National Political Reporter

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has hinted that same-sex marriage should be brought before Parliament via a cross-party bill, in a major shift in his language on the reform.

If our Parliament were to make a big decision on a matter such as this, it ought to be owned by the Parliament and not by any particular party. 

As Mr Abbott also called on Labor leader Bill Shorten not to politicise the issue, estimates show Canberra is just one MP away from gathering enough support to a pass a same-sex marriage bill through both houses. Labor’s Anna Burke has become the latest MP to declare her support for same-sex marriage, which takes the lower house to 75 MPs in favour of same-sex marriage, based on Australian Marriage Equality’s analysis.

Seventy six votes are needed to pass a bill. In the Senate, estimates have same-sex marriage passing with a majority of one. These figures assume that Liberal MPs are given a free vote and includes MPs who have only declared their support in private. Ms Burke’s announcement comes as Mr Shorten announced he will introduce a bill to legalise same-sex marriage into the lower house next week, and in doing so, try and force the issue in the Liberal party room.

The move has angered some Liberal MPs who support same-sex marriage and do not think Labor pressure will help them secure a free vote for their side. It has also caused confusion in the Parliament, given Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm and the Greens also have same-sex marriage bills on the Senate’s books. During question time on Wednesday, Mr Shorten asked Mr Abbott if he would let his MPs have a free vote.

The Prime Minister replied that even though he could not “forsee the future”, if Parliament did discuss same-sex marriage, it should be under a non-partisan banner. “If our Parliament were to make a big decision on a matter such as this, it ought to be owned by the Parliament and not by any particular party,” he said. “I would ask the Leader of the Opposition and all members of Parliament to consider this as we ponder these subjects in the weeks and months to come.”

Mr Abbott is a staunch defender of the existing marriage definition. But he has previously said it will be up to the Liberal Party to decide their position on a free vote and has conceded he is the only person in his family who is against same-sex marriage. On Wednesday, Ms Burke revealed that she not only backs same-sex marriage but a binding vote.

The former speaker did not vote when a same-sex marriage bill last came before the House of Representatives in 2012 and was defeated. “Marriage equality should be endorsed by our Parliament and our community, as it is a fundamental right that everyone should be equal before the law and marriage is a legally binding contract enacted under law,” Ms Burke said.

“My marriage will only be enhanced by all those who seek to publicly declare their union, children will only benefit from their parents being able to publicly declare their union and our society will only be enhanced by removing discrimination.” Ms Burke polled her electorate on marriage equality in 2010, which told her “my community did not support a change to the Marriage Act”.

The Labor MP holds the seat of Chisholm in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. She explained she did not put forward her own personal view at the time because she believed same-sex marriage “needs to be embraced by the community to ensure lasting equality”. Ms Burke follows similar announcements from Labor colleagues Wayne Swan, Tony Burke, Chris Bowen, Ed Husic and Joel Fitzgibbon in recent weeks.

Australian Marriage Equality said it welcomed Ms Burke’s support. “It will send a positive message to Labor members who have yet to support the reform that they should get their skates on,” national director Rodney Croome said. “By our estimation we are now just one vote short of a majority in the lower house.” Mr Croome cautioned that the news did not mean “we should rush to a vote”. “It’s important that the Coalition allows a free vote for its members and that these members have a chance to have a dialogue with their electorates about the reform.”

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/samesex-marriage-vote-should-be-owned-by-the-parliament-tony-abbott-20150527-ghaohc.html  

Greens Senator Sarah Young-Hanson

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: GREENS SET DATE FOR PARLIAMENTARY VOTE

Sydney Morning Herald – May 26, 2015

Judith Ireland – National Political Reporter

Two of the strongest Liberal supporters of same-sex marriage have lashed Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s move to introduce a bill on the topic to the Parliament next week. Mr Shorten announced late on Tuesday that he will introduce a private member’s bill designed to legalise same-sex marriage next week, a move designed to force the Parliament – and in particular the government – to address the issue.

You can guarantee if you drop a hand grenade, like Bill has done, you can guarantee it won’t get through the Parliament. 

With three same-sex marriage bills from three different parties coming before the Parliament, the Greens are calling for a cross-party meeting for the different groups to discuss a common strategy. “The only way to achieve a common goal and secure marriage equality in Australia is to work together across party lines,” Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said. “Love and equality is above politics.”

But Queensland Liberal MPs Warren Entsch and Wyatt Roy, who are two of the most vocal supporters of the reform in the Coalition, were scathing of Mr Shorten’s decision. Mr Entsch suggested Mr Shorten’s move was a ploy to distract people from the fact that “Bill has run out of questions on the budget”.

He warned “you can guarantee if you drop a hand grenade, like Bill has done, you can guarantee it won’t get through the Parliament”. “I spoke to the Prime Minister this week about this, in light of the Irish referendum and we have been working on a time frame. We had made a decision to do something this year,” he said. “He [Tony Abbott] said to me ‘talk to like-minded individuals, come back and have a yarn to me and we will see where we go with it’. But out of left field, he [Shorten] has pre-empted his colleagues. This is nothing to do with marriage equality, this is all about Bill trying to create credibility.”

Mr Entsch said he was unsure if the push for to allow Liberal MPs a conscience vote on the issue would be approved by the Liberal party room. “But will the PM use his position to block it? No,” he said, while predicting debate in the Liberal party room over allowing a conscience vote would happen in spring. Mr Roy said the decision to bring forward the bill by Mr Shorten was an example of “shameless politics” from the Opposition Leader.

“This is about Bill Shorten’s survival, nothing else. It is so obvious and transparent, people will see it for what it is. This just should not be a partisan issue, this should be as close to bipartisan.” On Wednesday, Mr Abbott said he took the issue very seriously, adding that “there are different views inside the Parliament, inside parties, indeed, inside families as is well known in my own case. So it is an issue where the different views, the range of views need to be treated with respect”.

“It’s a matter that the party room will consider, as you’d expect. I’m sure at that time we’d have a very full and frank and candid and decent debate inside the party room,” he said. “But I do have to say that my absolute priority, the government’s absolute priority right now and for the next few weeks will be helping small business. It will be getting our small business budget boost through the Parliament and I hope that the Labor Party is not distracted.”

The Prime Minister said the Opposition Leader’s private member’s bill would be dealt with according to standard procedures, which means the proposed laws will be referred to the House select committee and considered. Liberal sources told Fairfax Media that meant, in practice, the bill would not be debated urgently despite the Labor push. Senator Hanson-Young has also proposed a bill, and plans to begin debate on her bill in the Senate in June. And Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm has introduced a “freedom to marry” bill to the upper house.

Mr Shorten said on Wednesday he would be “shocked if the government said they wouldn’t debate the issue”. “Now I get that there’s an issue, some Liberals want a free vote, others don’t. I get that people have different views on marriage equality. I think this is a matter though which shouldn’t be partisan, you know, Labor one way, Liberal the other way. I just think Australia needs to move forward and catch up with the times,” he said. Momentum has been building in the Labor Party for the reform, with frontbench MPs including Chris Bowen, Tony Burke and Ed Husic announcing in recent weeks they now support the reform.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/liberal-samesex-marriage-supporters-slam-bill-shorten-20150527-ghafco  

gay_marriage

CALM DOWN, AUSTRALIA! HERE ARE THE FACTS ON WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Sydney Morning Herald – May 27, 2015

Judith Ireland – National Political Reporter

Labor leader Bill Shorten and his deputy Tanya Plibersek have announced they will introduce a bill to the House of Representatives to legalise same-sex marriage next Monday. Prime Minister Tony Abbott responded by leaving the door wide open for a free vote in the Liberal party room, as long as it is in response to a cross-party bill. While the maneuvering has kept the issue in the headlines, there’s more to this story than meets the eye:

Does this mean we will have a parliamentary vote next week? Should I get my rainbow flag out!? 

Calm down, Australia. Shorten only plans to introduce his bill next week. Even assuming Labor wanted to bring the vote on so quickly, the government would need to agree to this. Technically, yes, it is possible there could be a vote next week. But in practice, this reform will need a bit more time if it is to pass. For one, the Liberal Party will need to meet and agree to have a free vote. Time also needs to be set aside for parliamentary debate. Veteran same-sex marriage campaigner Rodney Croome says Liberal MPs in particular also need to be able to have discussions with their electorates. The Australian Marriage Equality national director adds he would not want “any perception that it is being hammered through Parliament”.

When then? 

August is shaping up as a key month. Liberal supporters of same-sex marriage are calling for a vote in the second half of this year. This lets the issue get clear of the budget and allows it to be dealt with before the election, next year. Bear in mind that there is no Parliament in July.

Don’t the Greens and David Leyonhjelm also have same-sex marriage bills? What’s with that? 

There is no shortage of same-sex marriage bills in Canberra. The Greens’ Sarah Hanson-Young already has a bill introduced in the Senate. This week, she announced she would bring forward debate on it next month. And has scheduled a vote for November 12. Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm introduced his “freedom to marry” bill to the Senate late last year. He was going to kick off debate on the bill in March, but then postponed it when the Liberal Party ignored it in their party room meeting.

That seems messy?

It is a bit confusing. As it happens, the Greens are calling for a cross-party meeting next week to coordinate the push for same-sex marriage in federal parliament. Hanson-Young is organising a meeting as early as Monday for the different groups to discuss a common strategy. “The only way to achieve a common goal and secure marriage equality in Australia is to work together across party lines,” she says. The PM has also weighed in, noting that if it were to make “a big decision on a matter such as this” it should be “owned” by the Parliament and not a particular party.

Stuff the Parliament! Why can’t we have a referendum like the Irish? 

For one, a referendum – or plebiscite – would cost money and take a lot of organising. For another, we don’t need it constitutionally. And a referendum can only be held with Parliament’s consent. Neither the Coalition nor Labour want one.

What are the mechanics of it then? 

Parliament needs to change the Marriage Act, which currently defines marriage as “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”.

What are the numbers like? Will same-sex marriage pass Parliament? 

In the House of Representatives, the latest estimate from Australian Marriage Equality is that support for same-sex marriage is about one vote shy of a majority.  In the Senate, there is estimated to be a majority of one.

Will Labour’s latest move actually help the cause? 

Many Liberal MPs, including Abbott, are rather unhappy about Shorten’s announcement. They don’t like being pushed around by Labor. The phrase “shameless politics” has been used. ` The question remains whether the Liberal Party, which has been slower to move than the others, will be able to keep setting their own pace on same-sex marriage.

Where does Australia sit on this compared to the rest of the world? 

Somewhere between “not a trailblazer” and “lagging”. Along with Ireland, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, France and Spain are some of the 19 countries that have nationwide same-sex marriage. In the US, more than 35 states have same-sex marriage, including Utah.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/calm-down-australia-here-are-the-facts-on-what-is-happening-with-samesex-marriage-20150527-ghaeu3

Warren Entch Wyatt Roy

LIBERAL SAME-SEX MARRIAGE SUPPORTERS SLAM BILL SHORTEN

Sydney Morning Herald – May 27, 2015

James Massola and Judith Ireland

Two of the strongest Liberal supporters of same-sex marriage have lashed Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s move to introduce a bill on the topic to the Parliament next week.

Mr Shorten announced late on Tuesday that he will introduce a private member’s bill designed to legalise same-sex marriage next week, a move designed to force the Parliament – and in particular the government – to address the issue.

You can guarantee if you drop a hand grenade, like Bill has done, you can guarantee it won’t get through the Parliament. 

With three same-sex marriage bills from three different parties coming before the Parliament, the Greens are calling for a cross-party meeting for the different groups to discuss a common strategy.

“The only way to achieve a common goal and secure marriage equality in Australia is to work together across party lines,” Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said. “Love and equality is above politics.”

But Queensland Liberal MPs Warren Entsch and Wyatt Roy, who are two of the most vocal supporters of the reform in the Coalition, were scathing of Mr Shorten’s decision.

Mr Entsch suggested Mr Shorten’s move was a ploy to distract people from the fact that “Bill has run out of questions on the budget”.

He warned “you can guarantee if you drop a hand grenade, like Bill has done, you can guarantee it won’t get through the Parliament”.

“I spoke to the Prime Minister this week about this, in light of the Irish referendum and we have been working on a time frame. We had made a decision to do something this year,” he said.

“He [Tony Abbott] said to me ‘talk to like-minded individuals, come back and have a yarn to me and we will see where we go with it’. But out of left field, he [Shorten] has pre-empted his colleagues. This is nothing to do with marriage equality, this is all about Bill trying to create credibility.”

Mr Entsch said he was unsure if the push for to allow Liberal MPs a conscience vote on the issue would be approved by the Liberal party room.

“But will the PM use his position to block it? No,” he said, while predicting debate in the Liberal party room over allowing a conscience vote would happen in spring.

Mr Roy said the decision to bring forward the bill by Mr Shorten was an example of “shameless politics” from the Opposition Leader.

“This is about Bill Shorten’s survival, nothing else. It is so obvious and transparent, people will see it for what it is. This just should not be a partisan issue, this should be as close to bipartisan.”

On Wednesday, Mr Abbott said he took the issue very seriously, adding that “there are different views inside the Parliament, inside parties, indeed, inside families as is well known in my own case. So it is an issue where the different views, the range of views need to be treated with respect”.

“It’s a matter that the party room will consider, as you’d expect. I’m sure at that time we’d have a very full and frank and candid and decent debate inside the party room,” he said.

“But I do have to say that my absolute priority, the government’s absolute priority right now and for the next few weeks will be helping small business. It will be getting our small business budget boost through the Parliament and I hope that the Labor Party is not distracted.”

The Prime Minister said the Opposition Leader’s private member’s bill would be dealt with according to standard procedures, which means the proposed laws will be referred to the House select committee and considered.

Liberal sources told Fairfax Media that meant, in practice, the bill would not be debated urgently despite the Labor push.

Senator Hanson-Young has also proposed a bill, and plans to begin debate on her bill in the Senate in June. And Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm has introduced a “freedom to marry” bill to the upper house.

Mr Shorten said on Wednesday he would be “shocked if the government said they wouldn’t debate the issue”.

“Now I get that there’s an issue, some Liberals want a free vote, others don’t. I get that people have different views on marriage equality. I think this is a matter though which shouldn’t be partisan, you know, Labor one way, Liberal the other way. I just think Australia needs to move forward and catch up with the times,” he said.

Momentum has been building in the Labor Party for the reform, with frontbench MPs including Chris Bowen, Tony Burke and Ed Husic announcing in recent weeks they now support the reform.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/liberal-samesex-marriage-supporters-slam-bill-shorten-20150527-ghafco

 

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