From Massachusetts to Manukau, New Zealand, same-sex marriage is the number one gay and lesbian rights issue of 2004.

And a group of Australian gay and lesbian activists have decided to make marriage equality their single issue.

This is a group with a very narrow focus, Australian Marriage Equality (AME) organiser Peter Furness told Sydney Star Observer.

It’s not for a broad spectrum of gay rights issues. Once we achieve this particular aim we will cease to exist.

Fellow organiser Luke Gahan said same-sex marriage was important on symbolic and practical levels.

The public affirmation that marriage brings is important for same-sex couples, including those who have experienced discrimination in the past, Gahan said.

When a couple marries they immediately access a wide range of spousal benefits without having to prove they meet those criteria, like co-habitation and interdependence, often demanded of de facto couples.

Australian Marriage Equality was formed after other Australian lobby groups struggled to deal with the issue of same-sex marriage.

The recently formed Equal Rights Network, a coalition of state and territory-based lobbyists, could not agree on whether to make marriage a priority. While its member organisations announced their support for equal marriage rights, some said they did not want to campaign for marriage ahead of other partnerships recognition.

Equal Rights Network spokesperson Rodney Croome told the Star he was contacted by activists from around the country who wanted to campaign for marriage.

Quite a few people who were interested in campaigning for marriage reform contacted me, I think because I’d spoken out on the issue. I was persuaded that it made sense to have a group specifically dedicated to this issue, Croome said.

Such groups exist in other countries. In Canada, Britain, the United States and Europe there are campaigning groups for this, just as there are campaign groups for gay people in the military or gay people in the churches.

Croome said the Equal Rights Network was not in a position to campaign specifically on same-sex marriage.

There’s no consensus amongst the members of the ERN on the priority marriage equality should be given, and there are some groups in the ERN which believe it’s not a priority right now.

Despite differing opinions on the priority to afford campaigning for same-sex marriage, the ERN and Australian Marriage Equality have pledged to work together.

AME’s first campaign revolves around the Senate inquiry currently under way into same-sex marriage and adoption.

Spokesperson Geraldine Donoghue said AME was preparing a pro-marriage submission to the inquiry, and would be campaigning for others to do the same.

Marriage isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but almost all LGBT people want full equality and, until we have marriage equality, same-sex relationships will remain undervalued in the eyes of the law and broader society, she said.

On Friday a second government attempt to have anti-gay marriage legislation pushed through parliament was stopped by the Senate.

Although the ALP, Greens, Democrats and independents had voted to send the Marriage Amendment Bill to a senate committee earlier in the week, the Liberal Party rushed the same legislation through the next day, citing urgency. In its second appearance, the Senate voted not to debate the bill.

The Senate inquiry into same-sex marriage and adoption will present its findings in October. Submissions must be received by Friday 30 July. Full inquiry details are available on the Parliament House website, at www.aph.gov.au.

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