A former Tasmanian Labor premier has joined the chorus of party members calling for Australia to overturn its law outlawing same-sex marriage.
In an article in this morning’s The Age newspaper in Melbourne, David Bartlett expresses calls for the law change after discovering his lesbian sister was denied a Certificate of No-Impediment (CNI) to marry her girlfriend in Portugal, even though same-sex marriages are legal there.
According to the article, Bartlett’s 40-year-old half-sister, Angela Borella was forced to cancel the planned wedding to her Portuguese girlfriend Filipa Santos because the Australian Government refused to issue the necessary paperwork.
“It is now time for the Labor party to show progress and real leadership on this issue,” Bartlett said.
“My sister has found true love and for her not to be able to express that true love in another country that agrees with same-sex marriage because of the Australian context is very upsetting for everyone.”
While the Australian Government freely issues CNI’s for heterosexual marriages, it has refused to issue them for same-sex nuptials, even if same-sex marriage is legal in that country.
New York, which recently legalised same-sex unions, does not require a CNI.
Ms Borella told the newspaper she was left “upset” and “embarrassed” after being informed by Australian embassy staff in Lisbon that the wedding could not proceed.
“It’s ridiculous that my partner can legally marry another woman here in Portugal where we both live, but the Australian government can stop her from marrying me,” she said.
Bartlett’s call is expected to place further pressure on next week’s ALP National Conference where Gillard will back a conscience vote on the issue for Labor MPs.
However the Prime Minister is expected to face intense criticism over her position as Labor members from around the country push for an change in party policy.
Australian Marriage Equality (AME) campaign director, Rodney Croome, said Ms Borella is one of many gay and lesbian Australians who have been disadvantaged because of the federal Government’s mean-spirited policy.
“Not content with stopping same-sex couples marrying in Australia, the federal Government is trying to stop us marrying overseas as well,” Croome said.
“The Australian Government says it can’t issue the certificate in question to same-sex couples because same-sex marriages aren’t recognised here, but these certificates aren’t about what Australian marriage law says, they’re about whether an Australian is free to marry under foreign marriage laws.
“When the ALP National Conference considers marriage equality next week, I hope delegates take notice of the pain and disadvantage caused by the current denial of equality to people like Angela and support a new policy in favour of marriage equality.
“But if Government policy doesn’t change, we will commence legal proceedings against the Government on the basis that it misusing these certificates for a purpose they were never meant for.”
David Bartlett was the Premier of Tasmania from May 2008 until January 2011.