Gay marriage is a “hot topic” in Australia.
After the medal ceremony of the Inaugural Women’s Rugby Sevens competition, TV viewers of the Rio Olympics saw Marjorie Enya, a 28 year-old volunteer manager at the stadium, propose to her girlfriend, rugby player Isadora Cerullo. Although the Brazilian squad finished 9th in the tournament, it is clear that Isadora won the heart of her girlfriend Marjorie.
Brazil is one of many countries which allow same-sex couples to marry. In May 2015, Ireland became the first country to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote. A similar plebiscite was planned by the Australian Government, but has been blocked by the Senate.
One high-profile advocate of same-sex marriage, the respected Jurist and former High Court Judge Michael Kirby has criticised the government’s plans to hold a gay marriage plebiscite. Mr Kirby, who has lived with his partner Johan since 1969, had hoped that the Senate would deny support for the plebiscite. Mr Kirby wrote in The Australian on 10 August 2016:-
“It would be better that nothing at all were done by the Federal Parliament on same-sex marriage than a plebiscite which was undertaken with a possibility of defeat"
Under our constitution, the Federal Government has power to legislate about marriage. Section 5 of the Marriage Act 1961 defines “marriage” as:-
“The union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”.
In his recent election campaign, Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said
“The first piece of legislation I introduce into the 45th Parliament will be a bill to amend the Marriage Act, a simple change. The words “a man and a woman” are replaced with “two people”. No $160 million plebiscite, no hurtful, hateful government-sponsored advertising campaign for us”
Of course, the outcome of the election saw a reinstatement of the Coalition Government, led by Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
It remains to be seen whether a plebiscite will “bury” this issue again, or whether Australia follows Ireland’s lead by legalising same-sex marriage by popular vote….Watch this space!