On Monday the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs released its report on the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 and Marriage Amendment Bill 2012.

As you might have seen, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby has mixed views about the report. We were pleased to see the report explicitly outlined that, while de facto recognition has provided much substantive legal protection, there continue to be procedural advantages and greater portable recognition for those who are married.

The report also puts to rest some of the scaremongering by religious opponents of marriage equality — that churches will be forced to perform same-sex marriages. Committee chairman Graham Perrett MP highlighted that the bills seek to enable civil marriage for all couples while preserving the existing protection for religious ministers.

However, it was disappointing that, although 64 percent of respondents to the committee’s survey indicated their support for marriage equality, the committee did not adopt a position on whether to recommend the bills.

What is striking about the report were the comments from ordinary people across Australia who are deeply affected by this issue.

More than 275,000 people made submissions, and while obviously many of those were not supportive of marriage equality, we can be proud that our community spoke so eloquently and passionately about their loves, their families and their rights.

“The values and traditions surrounding marriage in Australia are applicable to all citizens regardless of their sexuality — love, respect, companionship and family.” (p.18)

“Marriage equality is about human rights. Same-sex couples should have the same right to marry as other couples. And besides, I think everyone has forgotten, this is just about love. And commitment.” (p.24)

There were also many comments from straight people supportive of marriage equality.

“Marriage regulation should not be the exclusive right of religious groups. I am a religious person, and had a church marriage, but I believe those of other persuasions should also have the right to publicly affirm their commitment to another person.” (p.24)

Unless all parties grant their members a conscience vote, it seems unlikely these bills will pass Parliament in this term. However, while the fight for marriage equality goes on, it’s vital that our communities and supporters continue to speak up and tell their stories.

Every letter to an MP, response to a parliamentary inquiry, letter to the editor or online comment contributes to showing the depth of support for this change in Australia.

While we would have loved to see support for marriage equality from the committee, we are very positive this report will encourage MPs to see the strong community support in Australia for all individuals to be able to marry, regardless of the gender of who they love.

By Lainie Arnold

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