As activists threatened a High Court challenge to the same-sex marriage ban, the coalition said the new law didn’t change anything and that they received hardly any feedback from the gay and lesbian community about it.
Senator Amanda Vanstone, speaking at a Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association function on Monday night, said she and her coalition colleagues did not get contacted much by the gay and lesbian community.
If you think someone else is doing it, they’re not, Vanstone said. I just thought you should know.
She told the crowd at Stamford Plaza, Double Bay, she believed the gay marriage ban -“ which was passed by the Senate on Friday afternoon -“ didn’t change anything.
I understood it simply clarified something that already existed. On Thursday the situation was the same that existed on Friday.
To me nothing has changed with that bill. It was just a restatement, Vanstone said.
The government was trying to keep religious groups happy with the Marriage Act amendment, the Senator said, and gay groups happy with the recent legislation giving same-sex couples more equality in superannuation.
Vanstone said that in a multicultural society there are always groups with conflicting desires. Sometimes you do something for each of them. Can we move forward with both of them? Yes, we can. Has anybody been harmed out of this exercise? No. Has anybody gained? I think yes.
Equal Rights Network spokesperson Rodney Croome said the new same-sex marriage legislation was being examined by legal academics and constitutional lawyers.
If they say the new law is constitutionally suspect we will seriously consider the possibility of a High Court challenge, Croome told Sydney Star Observer.
One aspect being investigated was whether the external affairs department, which dealt with foreign marriages, could be used to entrench discrimination. There were also questions over whether the commonwealth had the power to allow such laws.
It’s not certain we can win on any of those arguments, but it’s definitely worth a look, Croome said.
Rob McGrory, from the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, said it would be some months before a legal challenge could get off the ground and said the fact we currently have a very conservative High Court was being taken into consideration.
A spokesperson for Attorney-General Philip Ruddock told The Sydney Morning Herald the government was on strong ground with the legislation, which had been checked as being constitutionally valid.
Meantime, about 400 people gathered in Darlinghurst on Saturday to protest the passing of the marriage ban. The crowd marched down Oxford Street with a two-car police escort to the Family Court on Goulburn Street, then on to ALP headquarters on Sussex Street.
Democrats senator Brian Greig told the protesters he was horrified Labor had given credence to the Christian right. He said he attended part of the Christian marriage forum at Parliament House two weeks ago and heard speakers say that lesbian and gay people are vile, shameful and moral terrorists. I heard speakers say same-sex relationships are unnatural, unhealthy, inherently unstable and harmful to children.
I’ve heard repeatedly from the Labor Party, the Liberals and anti-gay groups that marriage is the best environment for families. To which I say, fine, what about our families? Greig said.
Senators voted 38-7 in favour of banning same-sex marriage on Friday. During the debate Democrats senator Andrew Bartlett fought back tears, saying the legislation offended [him] so much.
It is so disgusting, this legislation. It can not only be hurtful, it can be fatal.
And Victorian senator Jacinta Collins told the Senate the ALP would have supported a ban on same-sex marriage the first time it was raised by the Liberal Party.