The Greens have made good on a promise to introduce a private member’s bill to allow same-sex marriage in Australia.
Senator Sarah Hanson-Young introduced the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009, which would grant Australian same-sex couples equal marriage rights and recognise unions entered into abroad, in the Senate last week. The bill seeks to remove all discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity from the Marriage Act 1961.
In an accompanying speech, Hanson-Young said the Greens believe discrimination espoused by the current Marriage Act must be overturned to ensure freedom of sexuality and gender identity are recognised as fundamental human rights.
Hanson-Young referred to a Victorian gay couple, Jeff and Rodney, who had contacted her to say they are so determined to marry they are forced to go overseas, only to have the marriage not recognised on home soil.
-œ[We] urge that you pass this message on to your colleagues in the House and Senate, and remind them that we are real people, with real families, we pay real taxes and contribute to our community -¦ and we deserve equality, the couple wrote.
A 30,000-strong petition, collected last year in support of legalising same-sex marriage was also presented with the bill.
-œWhile last year we saw some historic leaps and bounds in removing discrimination against same-sex couples within this country’s federal laws, there was a glaring omission from that suite of legislation: marriage, Hanson-Young said.
-œIt’s well and truly time our Parliament rights this wrong and legislates for true equality.
It is the second time the Greens have lodged an amendment bill on the issue -” the last, which was unsuccessful, was tabled two years ago by former Senator Kerry Nettle.
The Marriage Act was amended in 2004 by the Howard Government, with the ALP’s support, to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman only.
The Greens decision to move the bill has been boosted by a recent Galaxy Poll, commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality, which shows 60 percent of Australians support same-sex marriage.
The Greens bill would also repeal the ban on recognising same-sex marriages entered into overseas.
-œIt’s ridiculous that a same-sex couple married in Canada, for example, can step off the plane at Sydney International Airport and have their marriage considered invalid, Hanson-Young said.
-œThe Rudd Government can no longer hide behind the lame excuse of the community not being ready for same-sex marriages happening in Australia -” it’s the Rudd Government who needs to catch up with public understanding.
-œAustralia cannot truly hold its head up high while celebrating diversity and exhorting the virtue of acceptance without equal marriage laws.