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42 responses to “Two marriage equality bills in the House”

  1. wilful

    I really don’t understand why this is not tearing up the Liberal Party as much as it is Labor. Surely there are enough Tory inner-city Melbourne and Sydney MPs to create schisms.

  2. Tommy Praxis

    To Wilful @ 1:

    I suspect there is a fair bit of Liberal in-fighting on this issue – it’s just not as visible as it is with Labor. In part, that’s because of the different approaches the two parties have to deciding policy (Labor does it out in the open at Conferences, while the Libs do it behind closed doors in Party Room meetings); in part, it’s because Australian media institutions for a variety of reasons are not presently interested in publishing stories about internal Liberal tensions.

    Tony Abbott has suffered a defeat within his own party on the issue of marriage equality in the past few days. After several months of declaring that Liberal MPs will not be allowed a free vote on the matter, he has recently been forced to concede that some of them will cross the floor to vote for equality anyway, and that he may as well look magnanimous and not try to stand in their way. At least, that’s my interpretation of Christian Kerr’s piece in The Australian yesterday.

    As regards the longstanding liberal/conservative tensions within the Liberal Party these days, that’s a fairly interesting development. It’s a minor victory for the party’s small-’l’ liberal wing in what seems like an increasingly conservative-dominated environment. If the Australian press were as fixated on leadership issues within the Liberals as they are with Labor, the journosphere would be abuzz with speculation right now about how Malcolm Turnbull or perhaps Joe Hockey or Julie Bishop was laying the groundwork for a tilt at the leadership.

  3. Sunny Jim

    The bigger question, however, is whether there exists the votes to pass the bill. At the moment, while Labor members have a conscience vote on the matter, while Coalition MPs and Senators don’t, the answer is a straightforward “no”.

    It’s not as straightforward as you suggest. Coalition backbenchers have the repercussion-free liberty to exercise a conscience vote. My sources tell me that about 20 ALP members in the Reps will vote ‘no’.

  4. Sam

    My sources tell me that about 20 ALP members in the Reps will vote ‘no’.

    Which means for the bill to pass the Reps, 19 Liberals will have to vote ‘yes’.

    A few mavericks? Sure. But 19? Not a chance.

  5. John D

    To me this is a “grow up and get on with it” issue that provides just another reason for voting Green while it is unresolved. The issue is not going to go away and it is a bit hard to see how either major party benefits by leaving the issue unresolved.

  6. Mat

    Sadly (speaking as a gay man – regrettably single at this time), no. I cannot see a way for the bills to get up with Gillard insisting that the ALP do a conscience vote, while Abbott rides the Coalition hard to have a party-line vote against. The numbers just aren’t there in Parliament, whatever the opinion polls say, for one reason: to most people (including most supporters), it really doesn’t matter that much.

    They won’t castigate their MPsfor voting for OR against the bill, so the conservatives in the Labor Unity faction will have a field day wrecking the issue. Probably while delivering a homily on how important religion is and has always been to Australia and that we should be happy to remain second-class citizens – because hey, at least we’re not being chucked in jail, right?

    Wilful @1: What Tommy @2 said. There are divisions within the Coalition – esp. within the Liberal Party – on many issues, but they don’t air their dirty laundry (unlike Labor) and the media won’t go looking for it (again unlike Labor).

    Sunny Jim@3:

    First, no vote is truly repercussion-free. And if you think the religious right of the party won’t try to bump off any Coalition backbencher who votes “aye” on this, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

    Second, even if they can and do conscience-vote without repercussion, do you really think there are 19 Coalition backbenchers who will (a) want same-sex marriage; and (b) be willing to dare the wrath of the conservative factions to vote for it? If 20 ALP members vote “nay”, that’s how many we need – plus the possibility that Indies may vote against also.

    John D@5: Both parties benefit from maintaining the status quo ante here.

    Labor benefits by being able to say “Look at how wonderful we are!” to otherwise-conservative LGBT people (and they do exist) who might be tempted to vote Liberal.

    Liberal benefits by using the issue to fire up their religious base. “Look at the godless socialist Laborites!”

  7. James McDonough

    Mat -
    I’m sure there are 19 Coalition backbenchers who want same-sex marriage. It’s a classic liberal issue. There must be some liberals left, surely?
    I’m more afraid of the religious right of the ALP. I have enough of their genes to know how loony they are.
    I think this is a lose-lose issue. Both major parties will come out of this looking tricky and out of touch. Australians are ready for this. If a minority of the public oppose it now, who will care in ten years? Remember no-fault divorce, legalised prostitution, seatbelts … the sky doesn’t fall in.
    In the meantime the Greens are kicking easy goals all over the park this week, as far as I can see. They’ll be getting credit that they really don’t deserve for dental, and they are looking quite sane and untroubled on gay marriage.

  8. PeterTB

    I really don’t understand why this is not tearing up the Liberal Party as much as it is Labor

    Perhaps because the Liberals realise that this is an unimportant issue, while Labor and the Greens are seeking relevance?

  9. Maggie

    I see this marriage debate as a major distraction from the real issues confronting us at present. I am not going to physically stand in the way of those who feel they must enter into an anachronistic institution designed to formalise power and the transfer of property into the husbands family. Last time I saw any debate on this issue it was when feminism sought to abolish the practise altogether and I have not found a reason to change my view. Why not fight for the abolition of all marriages and their replacement with a much more equal civil union?
    Then can we get back to the really serious issues like transition to sustabinable energy and food security?

  10. Fran Barlow

    Why not fight for the abolition of all marriages and their replacement with a much more equal civil union?

    Because Maggie, much as I share your sentiment, this ought to be about the issue of equal treatment by the capitalist state. Marriage is not something to be “abolished” by the state, but which should rather fall into desuetude as it becomes an irrelevance.

    One does not get there by denying state sanction to couples seeking to register their marriages, but by ensuring that marriage has no special significance in the eyes of the state. Yet this is something we must leave to individuals to determine.

    As things stand, the denial of marriage rights to same sex couples is an expression both of the primacy in culture of the bourgeois family by the state and of the role of religion in public life. It strikes at the integrity of the choices made by the GLBTI community and reduces measures relationships by their capacity to produce progeny. As radical as your proposal may seem, where it is a substitute for defence of the right to marriage by same sex or transgender or intersex couples in practice it merely provides political cover for abandoning a community to whom all who favour equity owe a duty.

    Let us say plainly that we set no store by marriage and why, but not without entirely endorsing and supporting the demand for non-discriminatory treatment of people seeking marriage registration.

  11. FDB

    “the primacy in culture of the bourgeois family by the state”

    Just cos I know you care Fran, this clause makes baby Grammar cry.

  12. Sam

    Fran, I’ve seen plenty of Trots simultaneously argue for and against a proposition but few have topped that effort.

  13. Helen

    Sam, nuance is what it is. Fran’s comment sums up perfectly how I think of the issue. Personally I do not care if the wedding industrial complex dies a natural death, but in the meantime, not being married or in a heterosexual de facto relationship can mean toxic relatives barring you from visiting your life partner in hospital and being denied widow/er’s pensions, life insurance and the like. Therefore, this needs to be fixed.

  14. tigtog

    Well summed up, Helen. I’m all for the state’s involvement in marriage registration eventually becoming obsolete and considered a quaint relic as we create better and fairer ways to handle regulating the rights and responsibilities of cohabitation, parenting and inheritance arrangements; but until that naturally occurs then mandating equality of access to the legal benefits that marriage provides is the only just course of legislative action.

  15. Chris

    Helen @ 13 – I thought the ALP had already fixed up those bits of discriminatory legislation?

    I’m still wondering why there need to be two bills introduced – I hope the two bills don’t result in neither passing because supporters get too attached to their version and vote against the other.

  16. Eric Sykes

    I thought Magda Szubanski was very good on Fran ABC Radio National Collapsing..er sorry..Unfolding, this morning. Didn’t see the prior TV moment in question though…

  17. Howard Cunningham

    I think I speak for many on here where I say it would be nice if things were said plainly.

  18. Katz

    Perhaps because the Liberals realise that this is an unimportant issue, while Labor and the Greens are seeking relevance?

    So, why did Ratty pass this in 2004?

    Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.
    Certain unions are not marriages. A union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia.

    A large number of Ratty’s ministry are still on Abbott’s front bench.

    It looks to me as if the Libs are obsessed about who can, and who can’t, marry, even to the extent of nullifying the laws of other countries.

    That is a comical but dangerous fixation.

  19. verity violet

    Im right with you Fran and Helen.

  20. Fran Barlow

    Howard Cunningham said:

    I think I speak for many on here where I say it would be nice if things were said plainly.

    I’m in favour of that too. I always seek to speak plainly. I assume you mean by that “without ambiguity or leaving out that which is salient“. It’s possible you mean however “with words and concepts in everyday use“. That’s a little trickier in some areas.

    FDB quoted me:

    the primacy in culture of the bourgeois family by the state

    then continued:

    Just cos I know you care Fran, this clause makes baby Grammar cry.

    Yes, that falls far short of the most elegant of my attempts to express myself. I composed that post in ten minutes while waiting for the washing machine to finish. Had I taken a second look I’d probably have recomposed the passage to avoid the prolonged concatenation of the offending clauses.

    Perhaps this would have been better:

    As things stand, the denial of marriage rights to same sex couples is firstly an expression of the primacy in culture accorded the bourgeois family by the state. It’s also a declaration by the state of the role of religion in public life.

    I ivite you to apply a tissue to baby Grammar‘s cheeks on my behalf.

  21. Sam

    Helen & Tigtog, what are the legal benefits from marriage? De facto couples now have all the legal rights and obligations of married couples. You might remember that Michael
    Kirby delayed his retirement from the High Court until the legislation was passed that ensures his partner gets the widows pension equivalent should Kirby drop off the twig first.

    If gays are allowed to marry, they will get access to the same bourgeois institution of respectability and conformity that is open now just to heteros. Nothing wrong with that, but that is what it is. Indeed, because that is what it is, is why the dark forces of reaction are so dead set against gay marriage.

    Let’s not cloud the debate by making stuff up about legal discrimination against de facto couples.

  22. Helen

    Sam @21, if all such legal discrimination has now been repealed, then it is a case of me not being up with legal news, not “making stuff up”. Your apology is accepted in advance.

  23. FDB

    Thank you Fran. The little dear is feeling much better now.

  24. tigtog

    @Sam,

    The major benefit, right off the top of my head, is that a spouse is automatically considered “next of kin” LEGALLY in a way that no other person can override without being assigned Power of Attorney directly. Without marriage, de facto couples (straight as well as gay) can find that disapproving parents/siblings/offspring can and often will present themselves as “next of kin” to medical staff etc in ways that mean the de facto partner has to resort to legal action to be recognised as having the primary interest in their partner’s medical/legal matters.

    Also, a marriage automatically overrides pre-existing wills and testaments, with new spouse automatically being given full inheritance rights to partner’s estate unless/until a new will and testament is written. De facto partnerships do not do this. Pretty sure that registered “civil partnerships” don’t either. Again, this matters if/when one partner becomes gravely ill.

  25. Sam

    Helen, I think you are old enough to understand this allusion: blogging means never having to say you’re sorry.

  26. Fine

    tigtog, politically the thing I don’t like in this current campaign is hte argument that gay couples need the protection that marriage still affords. Of course, this is true s far as it goes. But, what about couple, straight, gay, whatever, who have an in principle objection to marriage. It feels that in turning to marriage as a solution tot his issues, we’re pushing people into having to sign up to a legal contract they object to, just to get what they should, by rights, already have.

    I have gay friends who object to this campaign for exactly this reason. Surely, the progressive thing to do would be to campaign to abolish all discrimination against people who don’t want to live within the state of marriage. Instead, we’re saying that marriage is the answer.

  27. Sam

    Also, a marriage automatically overrides pre-existing wills and testaments, with new spouse automatically being given full inheritance rights to partner’s estate unless/until a new will and testament is written.

    Are you sure about that?

  28. adrian

    What Fine said.

  29. Chris

    Sam @ 27 – marriage does automatically nullify existing wills.

    Fine @ 26 – I think marriage in the secular sense has become a shortcut for making a bunch of other legal agreements with your partner. But its a concious decision which I think is a better thing than de facto laws where people effectively end up in legal agreements without realising it.

    With the ALP fixing up the discrimination in things like superannuation etc, I think you can get nearly everything you have with marriage through separate legal agreements. May be some exceptions like recognition overseas but same sex couples may still have issues in some countries even if they are married in Australia.

  30. tigtog

    @Fine, I totally agree with you that the real problem is that, despite all the rhetoric regarding marriage being about children (growing the congregation is absolutely its primary role in religion), marriage as managed/registered by the state has in fact always been about regulating property rights and the calm dispersal of inheritances. I can understand why some folks want to attack that intertwining of separate matters first and foremost. I just don’t think that it is the best strategic choice, especially since once same-sex marriages give those rights to some same-sex couples, the agitation for a reform of how property/inheritance ties into marriage versus de facto is IMO actually far more likely to succeed.

    @Sam, I phrased myself badly. So far as I’m aware there is still legislation mandating that marriage revokes earlier wills, making both party’s estates handled as intestate under probate, unless there are some quite precise conditions met in terms of who exactly the legatees/beneficiaries might be and the date that the prior will was made. Intestacy doesn’t mean that the new spouse will inherit everything, but it certainly means that any earlier spouse will have no expectations other than what might be needed for the support of minor heirs until their majority.

  31. adrian

    Yes, marriage does overide existing wills, but this can be nullified by drafting your will accordingly, with an ‘anticipation of marriage’ clause.

    Granted not many people are likely to do this.

  32. Nick

    Is it correct to say there’s still no federal relationship registry?

    And that because WA and NT don’t have registries, in those states, at least, you still have all the same old problems trying to prove (over and over again) you actually are/were a de facto couple in order to enjoy those 100 or so new non-discriminatory entitlements?

    Something married couples will never have to worry about…or has that changed recently…

  33. John D

    Lots of hetro-sexual marriage happen well after the woman is capable of having a child. Anyone who wants to argue against same sex marriage on child bearing grounds should also be against marriages involving women who are incapable of having children.

  34. Maggie

    Let me speak plainly when I say I love my gay friends and want them to be happy and fulfilled, whatever their choice may be regarding marriage. I still say that the focus on this issue at this time is a major distraction from real “human life on earth threatening” issues. I feel that the fight for gay marriage is a regressive step in social evolution. To fight to be formally recognised by the state as a married couple to me just means to opt out from having to deal with the real problem, which is marriage as the only form of full recognition of life commitment as a couple.
    Also I have investigated my legal status in a defacto relationship (hetero) and have been advised that I have all the legal rights of marriage, particularly in the case of children and property. Which is not to say some hostile in-law couldnt try something but I doubt that any legal form can overide all family conflict.

  35. adrian

    Maybe it’s indicative of how conservative we’ve become if one of the major social issues of the day is the desire of a minority group to become part of an outdated, anachronistic and pointless institution.

  36. Tim Macknay

    I still say that the focus on this issue at this time is a major distraction from real “human life on earth threatening” issues.

    That’s right. Every time somebody posts a blog comment about gay marriage, a baby seal dies. Because it’s obviously impossible to talk about gay marriage and reduce your greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.

  37. Sam

    Adrian 35,

    indeed.

    But for better or for worse many gay people are social conservatives in that they seek “to become part of an outdated, anachronistic and pointless institution”.

    Let’s face it, there are a lot of very conservative gay people, including you-know-who.

  38. John D

    While the gay marriage injustice is unresolved it will remain a distraction. This is why I strongly believe we should grow up, pass the legislation and get on with other important issues.

  39. Nick

    Sam @ 21: “De facto couples now have all the legal rights and obligations of married couples.”

    No they don’t. For instance:

    A prospective marriage visa holder may get married in Australia, and apply for a permanent visa after 9 months (at a cost of $965).

    Your same-sex partner must wait 24 months before applying for a permanent visa (at a cost of $2960 + $430 to resit medical).

    Changes in legislation have raised the rights and status of same-sex couples to those of hetero de facto couples.

    Not to those of married couples.

  40. Fine

    tigtog@30 – You may well be right about the strategy. Of course, I woyuld support any legislation that would allow a gay couple to marry. To do otherwise is ridiculous. But, the way is being prosecuted erases all the other issues relating to marriage.

  41. Justin

    Back to the legislation, are they really being moved to debate and a vote straight away? Or are they, like SHY’s bill in ‘the other place’, going to sit there until the public debate creates the conditions for success?

  42. Dan

    Have your say in a survey conducted by the House standing committee