Alex Greenwich: Report Is A Great Step Forward To Making Marriage Equality A Reality

There have been many parliamentary inquiries into marriage equality over the past few years; the big difference with the Senate’s most recent one is the consensus amongst all members of the committee.

For the first time ever a group of Senators from across the political spectrum, and with differing view on marriage equality, have come together and agreed on how to get the legislation right to pass marriage equality. The debate has finally moved from “if” we should have marriage equality, to “how” do we legislate for it.

This inquiry was unanimously established by the senate after the plebiscite was decisively voted down. It’s clear and stated purpose was set up to look at the draft marriage equality bill that the government circulated last year, and what changes would be needed to help it pass the senate.

The report canvasses a number of important issues and we hope will inform a parliamentary and legislative process that delivers marriage equality this year.

Thousands of supporters contributed their ideas and support for marriage equality during the inquiry, with legal, constitutional, human rights and religious experts called in to provide evidence at public hearings held across Australia. It was especially important that religious and faith voice for marriage equality were heard and represented.

A key theme the final report seeks to address is how to allow loving and committed same-sex couples to marry, while providing assurances around the protection of the religious celebration of marriage. All sides of this debate and all Senators agree that ministers of religion should maintain the right to only conduct marriages that conform to their religious doctrine.

For the growing number of Australians who have married overseas where marriage equality exists, there was no dispute that the proposed legislation should allow recognition in Australian law.

The arguments that cake makers and bakers should be given the right to discriminate against same-sex marriages have been dismissed by many Senators, for the furphy and distraction that they are.

The report makes clear that LGBTI Australians shouldn’t be singled out by any exemptions, which is also welcome news.

The release of this report means we are a step closer to marriage equality and the parliament delivering on the will of the Australian people. The Senators have shown that we can rise above party politics and work across party lines to find a way forward on marriage equality.

It isn’t just in the senate that this momentum towards marriage equality is being demonstrated with support from by elected representatives happening across Australia. This week alone, the A.C.T Government passed legislation to recognise overseas same-sex marriages in their territory, Kiama Council on the NSW South coast unanimously passed a motion in support of marriage equality, and the South Australian Upper House passed a motion in support of marriage equality.

Together we can get this across the line this year, but we need to keep the pressure on federal parliament and your MP and your parent’s MP still need to hear from you. Contact them today at equalitycampaign.org.au.

Alex Greenwich is CO-Chair of Australian Marriage Equality.