TODAY marks 10 years since the federal Marriage Act was amended to explicitly ban same-sex marriage, and campaigners are using the occasion to highlight the growing support for the cause.
The Marriage Act was amended by the John Howard Coalition government, with the support of the then-Labor party led by Mark Latham.
The amendment also explicitly stated that any marriages between a man and a man or a woman and a woman that were performed in foreign countries would not be recognised as a marriage in Australia.
Advocates and campaigners have used the 10-year anniversary to highlight the sharp growth in support for marriage equality since the ban was passed through the Senate.
“Since 2004 public support for marriage equality has increased from 38 per cent to 72 per cent, more MPs than ever before support the reform and the number of countries that allow same-sex marriages has increased from three to almost 20,” Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Rodney Croome said.
In addition, last weekend, Fairfax Media reported that 80 per cent of swinging voters were in favour of marriage equality.
“These positive developments will inspire supporters of marriage equality to redouble their efforts,” Croome said.
He also highlighted how many couples have waited too long, thanks to many parliamentary votes on the matter failing as MPs had been forced to toe their party’s lines.
“We will not pause until Australia rejoins the company of nations that treats all loving couples equally,” Croome said.
The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby stated that the ban from 10 years ago has led to “legislative inequality” for many committed couples who want to marry in Australia, but are unable to do so.
The lobby’s convenor, Justin Koonin, added that this ban continued “to have a discriminatory and negative impact on LGBTI-inclusive relationships around the country, by implying they are second class”.
Last month, NSW Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm announced his plans to introduce a same-sex marriage bill later in the year, not long after Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek announced she would introduce a bill of her own — but would only do so once she obtained a co-sponsor from the Coalition.
“My bill stands ready, and I again call on Tony Abbott to allow his partyroom a conscience vote, and for a Liberal or National MP to stand up for their beliefs and co-sponsor my bill,” she told the Star Observer.
The last vote on same-sex marriage at a federal level in Australia was held in 2012, when the House of Representatives rejected it by 98-42, and the Senate by 41-26.
In December last year, the Australian Capital Territory legalised gay marriage but it only lasted five days, after the High Court struck it down following a challenge from the Federal Government.
Other states, such as NSW, have also attempted introducing a gay marriage bill in their parliaments, but none were passed.
Rallies marking the 10th anniversary of the legal ban on gay marriage will be held this weekend around the country, with the biggest ones expected to be in Sydney and Melbourne.