MOMENTUM around marriage equality is building in the wake of Ireland’s successful referendum, with Labor’s Tony Burke declaring his support and one Liberal MP advocating a party room discussion around a conscience vote sometime this year.
The news comes as the Australian offshoot of Ireland’s Yes Equality campaign urged federal parliamentarians to recognise the Marriage Act as it currently stands is out of step with today’s society.
Birmingham said the discussion shouldn’t happen in an election year, but was hopeful it would be raised “when there’s a window during the course of this year”.
The prospect of a Liberal Party conscience vote continues to be the focus of marriage equality advocates, as more MPs come out in support of the issue.
Following the success of Ireland’s referendum in support of same-sex marriage over the weekend – which passed with 62 per cent in favour with a 60 per cent voter turnout– Watson federal Labor MP Tony Burke said in a statement he would vote in favour of a marriage equality bill in Federal Parliament.
Despite apparent opposition to the issue in his western Sydney electorate, Burke said voting in support of marriage equality would go towards ending increased community division.
“As this debate drags on in Australia it is becoming harsher and angrier rather than kinder and gentler. This is coming from both sides,” he said.
“The time has now come for the conversation in communities like mine to move to the fact that this change will occur. We need to get to the next stage of the conversation to explain why those who do not want the change will be unaffected by it.”
Former treasurer Wayne Swan is another Labor MP who recently announced his support for marriage equality.
Ireland’s yes vote in the face of a concerted campaign against it has prompted some to call for an Australian referendum on the issue.
However, Irish Yes Equality Australia spokeswoman Louise Nealon has told the Star Observer that a referendum in Australia is not needed.
“A referendum in Ireland was necessary to expand the definition of marriage in the Irish constitution, and it was important because the protection of family that the constitution provides will now be extended to same-sex couples and families,” Nealon said.
“That there had to be a vote about such a basic human rights issue was difficult for many Irish people, but it generated a public debate that has had a very positive outcome in terms people’s understanding of LGBT lives.
“Australians, however, are in the very lucky position of not needing a referendum or a vote as no constitutional amendments are required. And a referendum would cost taxpayers millions of dollars and potentially have negative effects on the mental health of LGBT young people across the country.”
The prospect of a referendum has also been widely rejected as unnecessary by experts, advocates and MPs, including opposition leader Bill Shorten.
Australian Marriage Equality national convener Rodney Croome called suggestions of a local referendum “a diversion”.
“A referendum would be costly, polarising and unnecessary given the High Court has already removed all constitutional obstacles to reform,” he said.
“Given how close the numbers are in our parliament, any suggestion of a referendum is at best a diversion and at worst a delaying tactic.”
Nealon also highlighted that Australian parliamentarians have run out of excuses to delay the inevitability of marriage equality.
“All major Irish political parties in government and opposition supported marriage equality and encouraged its citizens to vote ‘yes’ for equality,” she said.
“Australian parties across the parliament have yet to show the same leadership. And from a religious perspective, even one of the most senior Irish Catholic leaders has called for the church to take a ‘reality check’ in light of this ‘social revolution’.
“The Irish referendum wasn’t won by LGBTI voters or young voters alone, even though their representation was fantastic. It was won by the majority of Catholic and Protestant voters who reconciled their faith with the need to allow all Irish citizens to have equal rights.
“The right to marry and to protect your family is not a religious issue, it’s a human rights issue.”