Push on for gay ‘marriage’ in Australia
CANBERRA, November 16, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Australia’s minority Labour government has supported a motion in the lower House instructing all MPs to survey their constituents on same-sex “marriage.” The motion was tabled by the Greens party, which has long sought to change the legal definition of marriage in Australia to include homosexual partners.
Despite the support for the motion by the Labour party, Attorney-General Robert McClelland has denied that the government is planning to change the law, saying it would “upset” opponents of the idea who have “strongly held views.”
Originally, the motion had called on the House to note that other countries had allowed same-sex “marriage” and that there was “widespread support for equal marriage in the Australian community.” But Labour backbencher Stephen Jones moved to narrow the motion so it would only ask MPs and senators to conduct polls among their constituents.
A recent Sky News poll found that 22 of 39 Labour backbenchers, about 1/3 of the caucus, supports a change in the law to allow homosexual partnerings to be called “marriage.” Seven were opposed, nine wanted their opinion to remain confidential, with one undecided.
In 2008, the Labour federal parliament passed laws granting same-sex partners the same rights as unmarried heterosexual cohabiting couples in areas such as taxation, social security and health, aged care and employment. In New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, civil partnerships are either legally recognised or being performed.
The Green party has pressed for the legalization of same-sex “marriage with its Marriage Equality Bill 2009, which failed in February 2010 by a senate vote of 45-5, with only the Greens voting in favor and many senators not in attendance.
This August Labour won a close race against the more socially conservative Liberal/National Coalition led by Tony Abbott, and formed a minority government with an Australian Greens MP and three independent MPs. Both Labour and the Liberal/Coalition won exactly 72 seats, leaving the balance of power in the hands of six cross-party MP’s, four for Labour and two for the Coalition.
The election was so close, however, that Prime Minister and Labour leader Julia Gillard cannot afford the appearance of dissention in the ranks, particularly on a hot button, high profile issue such as the redefinition of marriage.
Backbenchers Stephen Jones and Deb O'Neill have openly voiced their support for same-sex “marriage,” opposing the official party policy that marriage is between a man and a woman. They were joined earlier this month by Mark Arbib, a party power broker and Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, for Sport and for Social Housing and Homelessness. Arbib said that MPs should be given a conscience vote.