A SENATE inquiry into bill to recognise same-sex marriages performed overseas has led to some minor changes to the bill, and to concerns about the fate of married same-sex couples immigrating to Australia without this legislation in place.
Anna Brown from the Human Rights Law Centre argued same-sex couples who marry overseas could legally enter a heterosexual marriage in Australia then face bigamy charges in the country of their first marriage.
Brown also argued that under the current law, same-sex couples married overseas may be unable to divorce their spouse within Australia.
Some submissions raised problems with the initial wording of the bill — for example, allowing marriage for “two men” or “two women” could exclude intersex people.
However, people on both sides of the debate acknowledged the bill was a stepping stone to enacting full marriage equality legislation in Australia.
Responding to a comment by Rod Benson from Australian Baptist Ministries that the bill was a “smokescreen” for full marriage equality, bill sponsor Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said: “It’s not a smokescreen, it’s wide open.”
Senator Hanson-Young also thanked both supporters and opponents of the bill for a more respectful level of debate on the issue.
While the issues specific to this bill were touched on by the several conservative religious groups opposing the bill, much of their argument centred around a broad opposition to marriage equality.
Submissions to the inquiry from groups including the Australian Christian Lobby included a grab-bag of arguments against marriage equality.
They expressed fears including that marriage equality would not be in the best interests of children, that opponents of same-sex marriage on religious would be subject to anti-discrimination litigation, and that such legislation represented an erosion of religious freedoms.