One hot topic at the recent ALP national conference was whether party policy should be binding in favour of gay marriage, or whether parliamentary members should have a conscience vote on the issue: Both options would represent a departure from previous party policy.
There were quite a few people writing letters to editors, moaning about the insignificance of this issue and that it was a distraction from more serious matters such as pay rises for MPs, whether it is okay to lie about carbon tax proposals, and how to expand the current party membership to at least 17 before the next election.
In The Age today Dennis Altman – an early campaigner for the decriminalisation of homosexuality – suggested this is a serious issue because it is a human rights issue.
[Interesting, he says, that this human rights issue is open for a conscience vote when the equally important policies relating to asylum seekers were not.]
On the same page of The Age Amanda Vanstone outlined her idea of a sensible approach to the gay marriage issue, stressing that regardless of marital arrangements, every child is entitled to know who both of their biological parents are. Most of her comments work for me.
Not having given the issue enough thought in the past, I was confident that moves to give same-sex couples equal treatment before the law had covered all the bases [e.g. taxation or social security], but there recently arose the case of someone who is unable to get their same sex intended a visa, because there is no way they can marry here. On the other hand, I know of a couple who were able to organise visas some years ago because their same sex relationship was recognised. This called for a little clarification on my part.
The Marriage Act is a federal act, and so has significance if a gay couple are affected by any federal law.
Some states have recently made allowance for gay couples to register their relationships.
there has been a long-standing entitlement of same-sex partners to exemption from or reduction of taxes for transactions such as property transfers to a partner. This benefit applied before the registration of gay relationships was proposed by the state. In this sense, perhaps, state registration amounts to little more than symbolic recognition. Victoria
Importantly, State acknowledgment of a relationship has no power to over-ride a federal law.
For the purposes of immigration visas for same-sex couples, the federal government does not discriminate where it can be shown that there is a long-standing commitment by a couple. Unfortunately, in order to show this commitment, some Australians have had to live overseas as a couple for an extended period, before applying for visas.
Where the law does discriminate is in the case of Prospective Marriage Visas, which permit fiancé[e]s to travel to
to marry – obviating the need for living overseas to prove the relationship is fair dinkum. Australia
No one can be a prospective spouse if the law won’t allow them to marry.
With a conscience vote, there is no way any attempt to change the law will succeed. The Liberal coalition have a binding policy on the matter, and Julia would look a right prat if she voted in favour of change now.
The ALP might be able to increase its membership to 17 before the next election, but I doubt many of that number will be gay people or friends or families of gay people.
Amanda Vanstone suggests – and I agree – that any religion should be free to refuse to marry same-sex couples if that is against their beliefs.
She proposes that all marriages should be formalised by the government, with people holding religious ceremonies later if they so choose. As most religious ministers [or their equivalents] are registered celebrants and do complete government paperwork as an adjunct to religious ceremonies, I’m guessing what she is really on about is separation of Church and State with respect to marriage.
Some members of the public suggest that gays should generally not be discriminated against, but gay marriage will make a joke of the institution. This smacks a little of “some of my best friends are poofs but I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one”.
There is no other way to interpret this sort of nonsense than, as Orwell put it, “all pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others”.
Anyone who claims to be in favour of human rights yet objects to gay marriage on one pretext or another should either pee or get off the pot.
The ALP shot themselves in the foot years ago, by moving to the right of Genghis Khan in order to steal coalition votes. In doing so they left their left flank open - conscience votes will do nothing to soak up green votes, and the only reason the ALP are getting coalition votes is because Tony Abbott is a vote repellent.