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4 Aug 2009

Australian Labor party reaffirms same-sex marriage ban

While same-sex marriage supporters stage rallies across Australia on Saturday, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Labor Party voted on the same day to retain the country's ban on same-sex marriage.

As some 1,500 people are said to have turned out for the rally at Town Hall before walking to Darling Harbour in Sydney on Saturday, the 45th National ALP Conference - held at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre at the Harbour - saw the 400 ALP delegates reject same-sex marriage and "any form of recognition of relationships that undermines marriage," according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Victorian Education Minister, Bronwyn Pike (Labor), addresses the crowd at the Equal Love campaign launch, 25 June 2009. More images at flickr.com/photos/equallove
Some 5,000 people, by the organisers' estimate, took to the streets the same day at Federation Square in Melbourne - making it the largest single show of support for marriage equality ever in Australia. Sixty-five same-sex couples reportedly tied the knot - albeit illegally at the event.Similar rallies to demand that the federal government recognise same-sex marriage was also held in six other cities: Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart, Canberra and Lismore.

Last year, the Rudd government announced it would amend almost 100 discriminatory laws preventing gay couples from sharing financial and social entitlements enjoyed by married and defacto couples, such as taxation and pension benefits.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland, who seconded federal minister Anthony Albanese's "compromise motion that included a commitment to a nationally consistent same-sex union register" as described by the Herald, told delegates on Saturday: “The support of Australia's faith-based communities, consistent with undertakings made before the last election and indeed reflected in our current platform, was based on those reforms not undermining the institution of marriage.
"Marriage is defined, as the amendment reflects, that we acknowledge and commit to the definition of marriage. That is defined in the Marriage Act as being between a man and a woman. And indeed that definition, I believe, is certainly consistent with the provision of the Australian Constitution."

He further reiterated PM Rudd's stance that his government "will not support any form of recognition of relationships that undermines marriage" saying: "I should place on the record that this resolution is not intended to, and does not support, any form of legislative or other action that in any way undermines the institution of marriage which is defined, as I've indicated in the Commonwealth Marriage Act, as being between a man and a woman."

Sydney's gay SX News highlighted Albanese's comments about the compromise: "Sometimes you can't always get what you want, but you get what you need" which angered lobby group Australian Marriage Equality (AME).

AME spokesperson Alex Greenwich told SX that Albanese's comments were "deliberately vague in an attempt to appease both sides of the debate: his boss and his electorate. Only his boss is happy. His electorate - like the majority of Australians - want equality, not empty rhetoric."

Albanese told SX: "I do find it an unusual tactic to criticise those such as myself who have supported gay and lesbian reform for over a decade," which he said had resulted in "100 pieces of legislation changed for the benefit of the gay community."

To which Greenwich countered: "It's just another example of the ALP saying, 'We've already given you enough - stop bugging us for more.'"

Rudd, a self-described moderate Christian, has long opposed recognition of same-sex marriage nor legalise nationally recognised civil unions. He has made known before he won the 2007 elections that he would ensure national marriage laws would continue to define marriage as between a man and woman.

The Australian Capital Territory, and the states of Tasmania and Victoria, recognise domestic partnerships which confer gay couples limited rights.

AME and Equal Love are urging supporters to send their submission - a few sentences would suffice - through the Senate's website www.aph.gov.au or online. AME has also produced a guide (What should I say? What other people are saying?) to making submissions, which can be found at www.australianmarriageequality.com. Submissions close Aug 28, 2009.

Reader's Comments

1. 2009-08-07 07:29  
Sorry to take a slightly different perspective to the News Editor on the reporting of this. I was one of many Rainbow Labor participants at the ALP's National Conference and there were a few dilemmas that are not reported here:
1. Our G&L community in Australia is divided over the push for "marriage" as opposed to relationship recognition which provides for equality in all areas of the law.
2. Lobbying by the queer "pro-marriage" groups towards change at the in the governing party's conference came too late and was very disjoint. 11th hour emails trying to activate lobbying did little. Thankfully Rainbow Labor operatives had fevered away within the party's mechanisms for months leading up the conference, and very actively during the three day conference, to balance this.
3. The public mock-marriages and Equal Love protests occurred AFTER the conference had deliberated and decided and had little influence due to the protest organisers getting it wrong in the timing.
4. That said, it appears that there is a greater interest by some of the groups involved in "banging the drum" rather than progressing the debate and affecting policy change, even to the extend of a potential hijacking of the debate by fringe political parties more interested in winning marginal parliamentary seats currently held by the pro G&L rights members in the government, with the risk of a return to the conservative party government at the next election.

The positives were: Removal of offensive wording in the ALP's national policy; an activation of the G&L community in Australia to now become more focused on coming together to determine what form relationship recognition needs to take so that "Equal is Equal"; further discussions on how to overcome the use of the word "marriage" which both splits our G&L community and drives the broader community to be be poles apart on the issue; and to determine a timeframe to move the discussion into government policy and legislation at the earliest opportunity.

Keep up the great work at Fridae!
2. 2009-08-07 10:48  
please, please...
take note that every community throughout our earth gay is disperse proportionately. lump up the gay numbers within a country may up to few tens thousand; few hundreds thousand, a big market, undeniable. government should look into the social welfares and benefits of these minorities. gay couple both parties privately consent the statement and commitment to look after each other till end of life, truth. why should government deny this existence. they are also citizen of Australia, they work, live, laugh, cry on the same land continent as other "man-woman" couple, why should not them advocate their right, treat equally.
3. 2009-08-09 21:51  
wait for the next term
4. 2009-08-11 07:01  
Unfortunately Rudd is leading one of the most conservative governments in Australian history. Hopefully he is voted out at the next election.
5. 2009-11-13 01:17  
# 1 - Thanks for your insight whateverrau, I agree with a few things you said.

But really...the progress that you mentioned...doesn't mean much...it's not going to affect the lives of gay and lesbian people who WANT marriage as a constituational right. And while you yourself may not see it as being an important thing...there are many who do...and those people are the ones who should have the choice. Not the rainbow labor party supporters or whoever it is...and certainly not Rudd.

I am not having a go at anyone. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I have to agree with poster #4.....I am not a Rudd fan...

I don't see the need for bureaucratic debate when it comes to this issue. It's simple really...as a developed western country...who claims to be so open minded...where is the harm in allowing a gay couple to marry, if thats what they want to do?

After all, recent stats claim that around 60% of Aussies support gay marriage. So to me...that points to one thing...Mr Rudd & Co are dragging their feet...

Comment #6 was deleted by its author on 2009-11-13 01:18
7. 2013-05-21 18:25  
They want to hear that gay is better than straight
so,its time for you gay to be better than straight, we should not insist too much.. we are not prophet who ask too much
God is alive, Holy book just past and showing God never talked to people anymore that why constitution and holy books never changes because it is against God in half.
so, Mr Rudd is not wrong, He only have darkness about same sex marriage, it mean that you are gay should show to the world that we are better. we can show..just find people to strengthen our community

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