The Rudd Government has announced a Senate Inquiry into same-sex marriage.
The inquiry follows the tabling of a private members bill by Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
Hanson-Young introduced the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009 which, if passed, would grant same-sex couples equal marriage rights and recognise unions entered into abroad.
In 2004, the ALP joined the Howard government to legislate against same-sex marriage. PM Kevin Rudd ruled out its introduction since being elected.
Although a closing date for the inquiry is yet to be announced, the government is calling from submissions in preparation for a November 26 report.
The International Gay and Lesbian Association (ILGA) has voiced support for the bill and called on Australia’s major political parties to support it.
ILGA said it would be targetting the inquiry as a way of drawing attention to homophobic laws in the Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Island region.
ILGA is still increasingly concerned over Australia’s reluctance to formally recognise same-sex relations, ILGA NSW representative, Simon Margan said.
Australia signed the United Nations statement on recognising human rights for LGBT people, but needs to follow through with legislation that puts this mandate into practice, by removing all institutional persecution of LGBT people’s relationships.
ILGA said it will discuss whether Australia should be included in its list of countries that institutionally persecute LGBT people at its next international board meeting.
Same-sex lobby groups are already planning protests around the country to coincide with the ALP national conference on August 1.
Equal Love, the group behind the August 1 protests, have welcomed the inquiry. Spokesman Martin Baldock said the momentum for same-sex marriage was gathering across the country.
The launch of this inquiry sends a clear signal to the federal government that marriage equality is not an issue that they can sweep under the rug and ignore, he said.
It’s an issue that is going to keep coming back again and again until they recognise the common humanity of all Australians and introduce equal rights for everyone.
NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor Ben Keats said the Lobby would make a submission as it prepares to launch a civil marriage campaign.
Support for civil marriage is clearly growing in Australia, and it is high time the Australian Government removed the discriminatory ban on same-sex civil marriage to give same-sex couples formal relationship equality, he said.
The Federal Government can no longer in good conscience ignore the community’s calls for relationship equality, especially given recent polls that show a majority of Australians support same-sex civil marriage rights.

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