Marriage equality advocates are still hopeful the Marriage Amendment Bill Inquiry report will be favourable, despite opponents’ claims the Bill would lead to polygamy.

The eagerly awaited report will be handed down next week. The inquiry attracted a record 26,000 submissions, most opposing same-sex marriage.

Australian Marriage Equality (AME) spokesman Rodney Croome told Southern Star the inquiry was not just a numbers game.
“It’s not about numbers. Ultimately it’s about the quality of submissions and the quality of submissions that went into this inquiry was very, very high,” Croome said.

A public hearing — which included church groups, human rights experts and grassroots marriage equality organisations — fleshed out several potential stumbling blocks in the Bill’s terms of definition including use of the word ‘sexuality’ over ‘sexual orientation’.
Claims by Liberal senator Guy Barnett the Bill could legalise polygamy were refuted by representatives from AME and the Australian Coalition for Equality (ACE).

“We support the two principles [marriage] being between two people over the age of 18 to the exclusion of all others,” ACE spokesman Corey Irlam told the inquiry.

“We do not believe that same-sex marriage will move towards polygamy and we do not feel it is something that is really relevant.”
But Australian Christian Lobby director Rob Ward told Southern Star he disagreed.

“The current [Marriage Act] wording … includes the expectation that it’s to the exclusion of all others and for life. The new Bill doesn’t include that, so by default the assumption must be that those people promoting gay marriage do not believe in exclusivity and do not believe in longevity,” Ward said.

Ward said ACL did not support the Australian Capital Territory’s move to allow civil ceremonies for same-sex couples.

“We’ve supported the Government’s moves to change laws that were in some sense unfairly discriminating against homosexual couples … but we still feel quite strongly marriage is a separate issue and needs to be treated in a different way,” he said.

The Bill — introduced by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young — defines marriage as the union between “two people”, however, it removes “to the exclusion of all others”.

Monash University Castan Centre for Human Rights Law deputy director Dr Paula Gerber told the inquiry Australia had international obligations to uphold the principle of non-discrimination by allowing same-sex marriage.

“If you take a step back from the emotive arguments and extreme positions and look at this issue through the lens of human rights law, I think the action that Parliament should take on this issue becomes clear,” Gerber said.

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