Prime Minister Julia Gillard has defended her Government’s policy of refusing gay and lesbian Australians the Certificates of No Impediment (CNIs) to wed, which they need to marry overseas.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie complained in Parliament this afternoon that “the Government refuses to issue CNIs to same-sex couples seeking to marry in countries allowing same-sex marriage despite the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee recommending in 2009 that the Government should do so — in the understanding that Australians overseas should comply with the laws of the country they are visiting.”

“Prime Minister, the ban on issuing CNIs to same-sex couples looks petty and mean-spirited. Will you lift it?”

In response, Gillard claimed that CNIs were about Australian law not foreign laws, contradicting the committee’s findings.

“What a certificate of no impediment means is that there is no impediment to the recognition of that marriage under Australian law,” Gillard said.

“Given that under Australian law through the Marriage Act a marriage is between a man and a woman it would not be proper to issue a certificate of no impediment because in truth we do not have the mechanism under current law to recognise a same-sex marriage overseas.”

Gillard acknowledged support for same-sex marriage among MPs and the wider community, but said the Government’s position would not change.

“I’ve made my views very well known, and the position of the Government is also very well known, but I am under no illusion that members in this place and members of the Australian community more broadly have different views on the question of same-sex marriage as is the way of things in our great Australian democracy.

“I’m sure we will continue to debate that. But with the Certificates of No Impediment to wed, it would only be proper to issue those if Australian law changed. Of course my view and the view of the Government is that there should be no change in Australian law in the terms of the Marriage Act.”

Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Alex Greenwich said Gillard’s claims were concerning.

“She continues to be misinformed on an issue which is growing in importance for same-sex couples in Australia,” he said.

“A CNI is a document that a foreign country requires for something that will occur in a foreign country — it has nothing to do with Australian law. Should an Australian citizen be convicted in a foreign country, we in most cases respect that law but should an Australian want to marry in a foreign country that is when the Government chooses to step in and stop it from happening.

“I think Mr Wilkie is right to refer to the Government’s policy in this regard as being petty and mean-spirited.”

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