The Australian Labor Party (ALP) is poised for a marriage equality showdown at its national conference in December, after its Australian Capital Territory (ACT) branch backed access to marriage for same-sex couples at the weekend.
The ACT motion endorsed “the legal right of all adult couples in Australia to be married if they so choose, and for that marriage to be recognised and registered by law in Australia, regardless of sexual orientation, or gender, of the parties to the marriage”.
In addition, the motion dismissed civil unions as an alternative as they “do not deliver the same legal security and social recognition as marriage and that a relationship recognition scheme that is separate from marriage would continue to make members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer community second class citizens.”
The motion also called for the outcome of the national conference vote in December to be “a binding vote for members of the federal parliamentary party, and that there not be a conscience vote on this issue”.
Similar motions have been passed by the South Australian, Victorian, Tasmanian, Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australian branches of the ALP, as well as the ALP Women’s Conference.
Only the right-wing controlled NSW ALP branch referred the motion on to December.
Every state ALP leader, including ALP national president Anna Bligh, has publicly backed same-sex marriage, with the exception of South Australia’s Mike Rann.
ACT Deputy Chief Minister Andrew Barr (pictured) said more than 90 percent of delegates supported the motion following an hour’s debate.
“There were really only a handful of people dissenting so it was a fairly broad statement from the ACT branch and, from what I’ve heard about the other state and territory conferences around the country, this was the strongest level of endorsement for change so far,” Barr said.
A lone delegate from the conservative Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association spoke against the motion, attempting to block debate by moving a number of procedural motions.
Barr was also elected a delegate to the national conference, where he has pledged to champion the issue. He said six of the ACT’s conference delegates were already on the record in their support for marriage equality.
The motion at the conference is the first, to the Star Observer’s knowledge, to explicitly reject civil unions.
“These state and territory-based civil unions or civil partnership schemes have been important in that they have been an advance on no recognition at all, but that ultimately isn’t the preferred outcome and this matter does have to be dealt with at a national level with one scheme for everyone and that’s marriage,” Barr said.
The vote by ACT Labor comes three weeks before federal MPs report back to the parliament on their consultations with constituents on the issue.