Letter to Robert McClelland on Marriage Equality

The Australian federal parliament will vote on legislation to provide for marriage equality in the upcoming sittings, which start next Tuesday (14 August 2012). My local Member of Parliament, Robert McClelland, has so far not declared which way he will vote on the bill(s), so I have written the following letter to him asking him to ‘do the right thing’. I will post any reply that I receive.

Dear Mr McClelland,

I am writing to you, as one of your constituents, to ask you to vote for marriage equality during the upcoming sittings of parliament.

My partner Steve and I have been together for four years. In fact, today is our fourth anniversary. During that time, we have had a relationship like any other couple. We love each other, we support and care for each other, we have each been embraced by the other’s family, we make plans for our future life together.

One plan which we have been unable to make, however, is that for our wedding day. This is despite the fact we have been engaged to be married for over two and a half years.

We cannot because, at this stage, we would be unable to legally do so in our own country. We do not want to be forced to travel to a foreign country, and get married under their laws, and then return to Australia and not have that marriage recognised by our own government.

Equally, we want to be able to be married in front of as many family members and friends as possible. I suspect that is the desire of most couples for their wedding day. But, unlike most, by forcing same-sex couples to marry overseas, the Australian parliament is effectively limiting the number of people who can be there for that special moment.

Many of our friends would not be able to afford to attend an overseas wedding, or would be unable to take the necessary time off work. Similarly, both Steve and I only have one grandparent left, and each would be unable to attend a wedding elsewhere because of poor health. We would both be incredibly disappointed if they could not be there for our wedding day simply because of a discriminatory piece of legislation.

When the bill which would introduce marriage equality comes before federal parliament, please vote to allow Steve and me, and thousands of other couples just like us, to get married in our own country, in front of as many family members and friends as possible.

This is a historic opportunity for members of parliament to formally recognise the love between all adult couples, irrespective of sexual orientation and gender identity. As such, the passage of this law would be a great achievement for Australia, demonstrating that all of its citizens are equal before the law, whether they are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex.

I implore you to help make that happen by voting yes on marriage equality.

Sincerely,

Alastair Lawrie

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2 thoughts on “Letter to Robert McClelland on Marriage Equality

  1. I have been feeling extra virtuous today so that, in addition to my letter to my local MP, Mr McClelland, above, I have also written to the six NSW Senators which the Australian Marriage Equality website lists as being currently undecided/undeclared. Those Senators are Arthur Sinodinos, Bill Heffernan, Bob Carr, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Fiona Nash and Marise Payne. As with Mr McClelland, I will post the replies that I receive.

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  2. As promised I am adding the response from Mr McClelland (or his office), which I received last Wednesday 15 August 2012. On the positive side, that is a quick turnaround (less than one week from sending). On the negative side, as you shall see from reading it, it avoids providing any indication which way Mr McClelland intends to vote.

    As I will discuss further in a planned post tomorrow, I think that this is an untenable position for any MP to adopt – after all, equal marriage has been a political issue for over 8 years, ALP MPs have known since December 2011 there will be a conscience vote, the House of Representatives debates have even begun, so there can be no excuse for not being able to say clearly where he stands. In any event, this was the response from Mr McClelland’s office:

    Dear Alistair [sic]

    Thank you for your email to Mr McClelland expressing your support for a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry. He has asked that I respond on his behalf. I appreciate this is a topic close to your heart.

    Robert is acutely aware of the importance of this issue to many people in our community. In his time as Attorney General, Robert worked tirelessly to remove discrimination for GLBTI Australians. These reforms removed discrimination from 85 Commonwealth laws and equalised treatment for same-sex couples in areas of taxation, social security, health, aged care, superannuation, immigration, child support and family law.

    As you may be aware, the Australian Labor Party resolved at its National Conference to change the Party policy on marriage.

    The ALP National Platform will now read:

    “Labor will amend the Marriage Act to ensure equal access to marriage under statute for all adult couples irrespective of sex who have a mutual commitment to a shared life”.

    This is the first big step towards marriage equality in law. To this end, Labor Member of Parliament, Stephen Jones, introduced a Private Members Bill on Marriage Equality, in 2012.

    Conference also resolved that MPs and Senators should be allowed a conscience vote on this issue in Parliament. Despite many within the Coalition also wanting to be allowed to vote with their conscience on this issue, the Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott is currently opposed to allowing his MPs and Senators a free vote.

    There were a number of other key platform changes that will benefit all GLBTI Australians. These include:

    · Removing a policy from the Howard era which has restricted same-sex couples marrying overseas. Certificates of Non-Impediment will now be issued from early 2012 to ensure there is no impediment to same-sex couples taking part in a marriage ceremony overseas;

    · A commitment to work with GLBTI communities in decision making, strengthening support for GLBTI people by integrating advice and ensuring they are supported in Government policy development; and

    · Consideration of a Ministerial Advisory Committee for GLBTI Law Reform and community issues.

    We have come a long way in a relatively short period of time. This resolution of the ALP National Conference marks another significant step forward.

    As with all matters of conscience, Robert will have regard to the parliamentary debate before deciding how he will vote on this matter.

    I thank you for your advocacy on this issue and for taking the time to express your positive support for marriage equality.

    Kind regards

    Ella Barnett

    Office of the Hon Robert McClelland MP

    Federal Member for Barton

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