Labor has agreed to a review of relationship recognition for same-sex couples, but conceded no ground on marriage or federal civil unions.
The policy of state-based relationship registers like in Tasmania has been dropped pending the review.
Senior cabinet minister Anthony Albanese said it was a compromise that would satisfy no one but the status quo of relationship recognition had failed.
It is certainly not my ideal position. I have a view that my relationship because I happen to be heterosexual, is not undermined by somebody else’s relationship because it is homosexual, he said to loud applause at the ALP National Conference this morning.
He said the compromise brought the issue forward and the debate would continue until gay and lesbian Australians had full equality.
Labor values are that all people are born equal regardless of their sexuality.
Rainbow Labor succeeded in removing the words mimic marriage and marriage is between a man and a woman from the platform. But few at the conference believe those changes to anything but cosmetic.
Attorney General Robert McClelland seconded the motion and said the outcome of the review would not undermine existing the Marriage Act definition, which he believed were consistent with the constitution.
I can say unequivocally that those reforms [already achieved] would not have been achieved without the support of Australia’s faith-based communities. I think that indicates what can be achieved what can be done when you bring the community with you, McClelland said.
The support of Australia’s faith-based communities before the last election was based on those reforms not undermining the institution of marriage.
Equality lobbyists believe the opposition to same-sex marriage will now be based on a constitutional argument.
McClelland signalled that he believed the constitution implies marriage is a heterosexual institution.
Marriage is defined in the Marriage Act as between a man and a woman, and indeed that definition I believe is certainly consistent with the provision of the Australian Constitution.
Although it went undiscussed in today’s speeches, the compromise allowed anti-discrimination reform to remain on the agenda if the Rudd Government is re-elected in 2010.
The new ALP policy on same-sex couples:
Labor supports the enactment of legislation prohibiting discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation or gender status, and the removal of such discrimination from Commonwealth legislation.
Labor believes that people are entitled to respect, equality, dignity and the opportunity to participate in society free of hated or harassment and receive the protection of the law regardless of their sexuality or gender identity.
Consistent with this belief, in 2007 Labor audited Commonwealth laws to identify discrimination against same sex couples. In 2008, laws were passed to remove discrimination from 84 pieces of Commonwealth legislation.
Labor will ensure that all couples whether marriage or de facto do not suffer discrimination.
Labor will take action to ensure the development of nationally consistent framework that provides:
- The opportunity for all couples who have a mutual commitment to a shared life to have their relationship officially recognised.
- Equal rights for all couples in federal and state laws.
Labor will review relationship recognition arrangements to ensure national consistently.
These reforms are to be implemented consistently with Labor’s commitment to maintaining the definition of marriage as currently set out in the Marriage Act.