The ALP National Conference has opened this morning at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre in Darling Harbour after media reports that a compromise deal had been struck in which the conference would pass changes to the ALP Platform supporting marriage equality but also that a motion would be passed guaranteeing a conscience vote on the issue.
Sources told media yesterday that a large majority of delegates were ready to support changes to the platform backing same-sex marriage – to be decided at the conference today before midday.
Smith said conscience votes should also be held where there were deeply held personals as a result of religion, culture, social experience or family or personal experience.
At 9.20am the Conference opens debate on Chapter 9 of the ALP Platform, “A Fair Go for All Australians,” with Jenny Macklin giving the opening address.
At 9.25am Macklin names marriage equality alongside indigenous rights and the welfare of disabled Australians among issues that the party will decide on to deliver a fairer Australia.
The Rainbow Labor amendment to the platform reads “Labor will ensure that all couples, whether married or de facto, do not suffer discrimination.”
“Labor will amend the Marriage Act to ensure equal access to marriage for all adult couples irrespective of sex who have a mutual commitment to a shared life.”
“These amendments should ensure that nothing in the Marriage Act imposes an obligation on a minister of religion to solemnise any marriage.”
The conference will hear two resolutions on same-sex marriage – one from Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and another from Penny Wong and Andrew Barr – the Rainbow Labor amendment.
The Prime Minister is speaking to her resolution and has acknowledged that many in the room will not agree with her but that the debate should be respectful of all views and is a “deeply personal” issue for many.
Prime Minister says debate must occur in an “atmosphere of respect” and that people should be able to “follow their conscience issue” and that changes to the Marriage Act have always been treated as “issues of conscience” afforded a conscience vote.
Prime Minister’s resolution says that “whatever we do with our platform, we accord all respect,” by allowing a conscience vote.
The Prime Minister’s motion is being seconded by Stephen Smith who said that recent conscience votes had related to abortion, stem cells and euthanasia, but it was mistaken to think that conscience votes should only apply to matters of life and death.
Smith says a conscience vote is the best way forward for the conference and the party.
At 10.01am Andrew Barr takes the stage to rapturous applause to speak to the Rainbow Labor motion.
Barr says that LGBTIs deserve the same respect and dignity as other Australians and that he can see no argument to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples – to which there is a big round of applause.
Barr says by saying yes to marriage equality delegates will be saying yes to equal rights and human rights for all Australia – says Labor is at its best when it creates important social reform. Barr says that discrimination is intensely felt by Australians in same-sex relationships.
Barr leaves the stage to a standing ovation from delegates and Penny Wong takes the stage to second the motion.
Wong says that the current platform enshrines discrimination against same-sex attracted Australians and that if there was discrimination against any other group no one would countenance it and it is now time to remove it.
Wong says for gay and lesbian Australians it has been a deeply personal debate, and that they value their relationships and want that value reflected in the ALP platform.
A lone heckler is being spoken to by security after he attempted to shout over Wong from the observers gallery.
Wong says the Labor party stands for equality and that should be reflected in the platform. After commending the amendment she leaves the stage to another standing ovation and cheering.
Joe de Bruyn takes the stage to limited applause to speak in favour of a conscience vote and against changes to the marriage act.
De Bruyn claims marriage has between one man and one woman through all human history without change – producing laughter in the audience.
De Bruyn says same-sex couples cannot produce children so to let them marry is to change it as an institution.
De Bruyn says that Labor has always said that marriage and family are centrally important.
De Bruyn mentions 2004 amendment of the Marriage Act to ban same-sex marriage to calls of “shame!” from the audience.
De Bruyn is tabling Australian Christian Lobby petition.
– Senator John Faulkner says Australian politicians send our troops to war there is no conscience vote and there should not be one for those who are troubled by who other Australians choose to marry.
Faulkner says Australian politicians send our troops to war there is no conscience vote and there should not be one for those who are troubled by who other Australians choose to marry.
Faulkner says he believes there is a mood for change in the community
– Delegate Michelle Lancy from PFLAG Newcastle is speaking for the Barr Wong amendment and against a conscience vote and says she supports marriage equality because of her Christianity and humanity.
She wants all her children to have the same right to marry and leaves the stage to a standing ovation.
– Sports Minister Mark Arbib stands to speak in favor of both same-sex marriage and a conscience vote which he says is the best way to deal with the issue.
He wants both his daughters to have the same right to marry if one of them should realise they are same-sex attracted when they are older.
– Transport Minister Anthony Albanese takes the stage and says that for many years the Labor Party supported discrimination on race and gender but moved forward on those issues and should move forward on sexuality.
– Tasmanian Senator Helen Polley said she was encouraged not to speak at the conference because of her opposition to same-sex marriage.
Polley says there is no-one she respects more than Senator Penny Wong but that does not clash with her opposition to same-sex marriage. She said she is labelled a homophobe because of her Christianity and said marriage ias between a man and a woman long before Christianity.
She admits she is in the minority of the Party.
– Human Services Minister Tanya Plibersek said the change’s time has come. Plibersek said discrimination must be removed from the platform and she is representing her gay and straight constituents in supporting change.
She said all love is equal and no-one is asking churches to change their views or marry couples against their will.
She said other groupps aren’t told ‘you’re almost equal so that’s go enough’.
At 11.08, votes are now being counted on a motion to allow a conscience vote. A motion was going to a count and looks close.
At 11.13, the amendment calling for a conscience vote is carried, 208 votes to 184.
Second amendment to change the platform to allow for same-sex marriage, overwhelmingly carried.