Australia: No Referendum on Gay Marriage

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Australia: No Referendum on Gay Marriage

(Blogmensgo, gay blog of October, 17, 2016) On October 10, the electoral committee of the Australian Labor Party to veto the referendum on gay marriage proposed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Bill Shorten, leader of the oppositional Labor Party thinks that such a referendum could pave the way for homophobic voices and have a negative effect on the LGBT community in Australia. Currently, the Prime Minister is still sticking to his planned referendum scheduled for February 11, 2017.

[Update of November 8, 2016: The Australian Senate has rejected the referendum plans. You can find more details at the end of this article.]
Bill Shorten

Bill Shorten. The Labor Party leader would like to quickly legalize same-sex marriage in Australia – but without a referendum. ©alp.org.au

Most likely, the Australian House of Representatives would vote for the referendum but the Senate against it.

The vote for the veto of the Labor Party was unanimous because members are afraid of the negative consequences, similar to the ones in Ireland in 2015 (see our article). In addition, the Labor Party considers the expected price tag of 175 million AUD (119 million EUR) for such a referendum as too high.

Instead of a referendum, the Labor Party favors a parliamentary decision on same-sex marriage. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull argues that there is no faster way than a referendum to legalize gay marriage.

The Australian government has suggested several amendments to the current marriage laws: In the future, marriage should be defined as uniting “two persons” instead of a man and a woman, and marriages concluded abroad should be recognized. However, the Labor Party has already announced its veto against this.

Comment: The Australian referendum on same-sex marriage is a very controversial question.

As the next elections for parliament will only be held in 2019, gay marriage legalization will most likely still take another three years.

The previous Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, was clearly against gay marriage. His successor at the head of the conservative government, Malcolm Turnbull, had promised to fight for gay marriage and seems to be doing this now by pushing a referendum with unclear outcome.

Bill Shorten and many members of the Labor Party initially were for a referendum. After many discussions, they recognized the uncertain situation and now consider a parliamentary vote as the better choice.

In any case, Bill Shorten has promised to legalize gay marriage within 100 days in case he is elected Prime Minister.

[Update of November 8, 2016:] On November 7, 2016, the Senators rejected the referendum project with 33 against 29 votes, as expected. Both, the Green party and the centrist party NXT voted against it although they are actually in favor of gay marriage.

Alex Greenwich, vice president of the Australian Marriage Equality organization, subsequently called on all representatives to find an honest and dignified solution in order allow all Australians equal rights.

Directly before the vote, and after 14 months of parliamentarian debates on this subject, the justice minister pointed out that rejecting the referendum planned for February 2017 would mean the same as rejecting same-sex marriage altogether. Nevertheless, all LGBT organizations, as well as all gay and lesbian representatives, unanimously voted against such a referendum.

This leaves just two options to legalize gay marriage: Either the parliament launches a legislation initiative or we have to wait for the parliament elections of 2019, hoping that the Labor party will win. Current polls show Labor at about 53% and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's party at about 47%. However, this may not be very relevant for the 2019 elections.

Openly lesbian senator Penny Wong (Labor party) has said she is ready to discuss such a law project with the Liberal party but no liberal representative has yet agreed to that./span>

Frank-S / MensGo
First source: news.com.au, October 11, 2016.

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