The peak national and NSW professional bodies for the legal profession have joined the call for same-sex marriage as a human rights obligation.
Law Council of Australia president Ross Ray QC welcomed the equality reforms announced by the Rudd Government last week as bringing Australia a step closer to meeting its international obligations. However, he said the job would not be complete until the 2004 Marriage Amendment Act was repealed.
As long as the Government remains intent on preserving a special class of state-sanctioned relationship which is closed to same-sex couples, discrimination will persist, Ray said in a statement.
And it will persist regardless of whether or not any Government entitlements are exclusively available to couples within that limited class.
In the end, it’s simple -“ all people are equal before the law and should be entitled to the same fundamental rights.
NSW Law Society president Hugh Macken shared the view and hoped this round of equality reforms would help improve social attitudes to same-sex couples.
Broadening the acceptance of same-sex couples will probably lead to a change in the Marriage Act, which is the final step, Macken said last week.
The reality is that changes to the Marriage Act are probably not as significant as the changes the government has announced.
NSW Young Lawyers (NSWYL) has also been active in highlighting the discriminatory nature of the current marriage definition. Its Human Rights Committee held a Same Sex Marriage Rights forum in Martin Place in February, inviting both advocates and opponents, but the organisation itself supports the removal of discrimination in law, administration and the community as a whole, according to NSWYL president Joshua Knackstredt.
The relevant provisions in the international instruments creating the international human rights regime that currently exists (in particular, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) are ambiguous at best, Knackstredt told SSO this week.
It could reasonably be argued either way that allowing people of the same sex to marry was an internationally recognised human rights obligation, he said, but if the body of nations were to ever resolve the matter, it would likely fail.
Given the current position of many Western nations, it is questionable whether such an addition would even be supported by a majority of those nations.