WTF Is Going On With Gay Marriage In Australia?
The Debrief: And when the hell are they going to sort it out?
A new private member’s bill has been introduced to the Australian parliament this week by backbencher Warren Entsch. If passed, the bill would allow couples, regardless of ‘sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status’ to marry.
The legal status of gay marriage in Australia has, at the risk of enforcing every bad aussie stereotype, gone back and forth like a boomerang.
The Australian Marriage Act, passed in 1961 was the first law passed regarding marriage in the country, but it didn’t actually define what that marriage should look like. Then, in 2004, a Marriage Amendment Act was passed that stated, ‘Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.’ This meant that same sex marriages, even those ‘solemnised’ in other countries where gay marriage is legal, ‘must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia’.
Cut to 2013 when, under the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013, gay marriages became legally permitted from December onwards. Although, almost immediately, the Commonwealth launched a challenge to the act in the High Court, which found that it was ‘inconsistent’, in terms of the Australian Capital Territory Self-Government Act 1988 an therefore invalid. But this actually means that, were Australia to introduce gay marriage, they would simply have to change the definition of ‘marriage’ in the original 1961 Marriage Act.
Confused? Well, no wonder. The legal status of gay marriage is defined by federal law, which applies to the whole country, but individual states and territories can create their own laws with respect to same-sex relationships. Just not marriages.
Although this new bill has now been introduced, Tony Abbott has categorically ruled out holding a public vote on gay marriage during the next federal election.
So, I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.
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