THE United States’ Ambassador to Australia has told the Star Observer he is hopeful the US Supreme Court will rule in favour of marriage equality in a crucial case in the coming weeks.
John Berry’s comments come in a rare one-on-one interview — to be published in the Star Observer’s monthly magazine tomorrow — where he also discussed his relationship of almost 20 years with Hawaiian lawyer Curtis Yee, why getting married was so important to the couple and that he had received death threats due to his stance on gay rights.
The poll said 57 per cent of Coalition voters were also now in support of same-sex marriage.
Berry said 2015 could be a turning point for marriage equality and admitted to being shocked by the level of political consensus on marriage equality in Ireland where all parties campaigned in favour.
“I think Ireland was surprised, I think the world was surprised, I think everybody was surprised,” he told the Star Observer.
“It’s a true reflection of how far we’ve come in my lifetime.”
Does he think the US has come far enough that the Supreme Court’s nine judges could soon vote to allow same-sex marriages in one state to be recognised in all others across the US?
“I think it all comes down to Justice Kennedy,” Berry said.
“It’s clear who are the four [judges] for and who are the four against — he is the focal.”
Berry noted Kennedy’s role in voting down the US’ Defence of Marriage Act in 2013 which dramatically increased the momentum for marriage equality across the country.
Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 36 states but a win in the Supreme Court would effectively see the measure extended nationwide.
“Hopefully, it’ll be a 5:4 decision in favour of marriage equality… but you can never predict what the Supreme Court is going to do,” Berry said.
However, Berry — who was appointed in 2013 as first openly-gay US ambassador to a G20 nation and has been a regular figure at LGBTI community fixtures across Australia since — warned a positive decision would not be the end of the struggle in America.
“Even if the Supreme Court does extend [marriage] in June it will only be the beginning, there will be backlashes, it will take time before this is adopted in every place but I have faith in every state in our country to do the right thing,” he said.
On Monday, Berry attended an event in Canberra organised by the Parliamentary Friendship Group for LGBTI Rights, where he said Australia’s leadership on gay rights had inspired the US.
“Much of the advance that we have been able to achieve in the United States has been built following the light that you all have given to us,” he said.
The event coincided with further discussion in Parliament on Labor’s marriage equality bill and was attended by a number of key figures in the pro-marriage equality camp including Greens Senators Sarah Hanson-Young and Janet Rice, Labor Senator Penny Wong and Leichhardt federal Liberal MP Warren Entsch.
Following Ireland’s successful referendum, a yes judgement in the US would further increase pressure on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to allow a conscience vote on marriage equality in Australia.
Entsch later told Fairfax Media he expected a Coalition conscience vote by the end of the year.
He also cautioned those in his own party who wanted the kill the issue and said if not dealt with now, marriage equality could end up as a key election issue.
The US Supreme Court is expected to hand down its decision in late June or early July.
A full interview with Ambassador John Berry can be found in the July issue of the Star Observer available in print and online from Thursday, June 18. Find out where you can pick up a free copy here.