10 Things I Hate About Marriage Inequality. #10: Because it makes me embarrassed to be Australian

[Updated 4 August 2016]

On Friday 13 August 2004, the Senate passed the Howard Government’s shameful amendments to the Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961. These amendments included a new definition of marriage – “marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life” – thus confirming the second-class legal status of same-sex relationships in Australian law.

In mid-2014, in the lead-up to the 10th anniversary of the passage of that homophobic law, I wrote a series of posts on the top ten things which I hate about marriage inequality, to ‘celebrate’ (or, more accurately, to vent). Sadly, as we approach the 12th anniversary on 13 August 2016, the list remains all-too-relevant today.

As you would expect, given how much this ongoing discrimination against LGBTI-inclusive couples pisses me (and, let’s be honest, most of us) off, there are some things which I had to leave out. But I hope you will nevertheless enjoy reading the ten reasons that did end up making the cut. Anyway, on with the list:

#10: Because it makes me embarrassed to be Australian

The 1st marriage equality laws came into effect in the Netherlands on 1 April 2001. In the now 15 years since, it has been joined by 19 other countries, namely:

  • Belgium (2003)
  • Spain (2005)
  • Canada (2005)
  • South Africa (2006)
  • Norway (2009)
  • Sweden (2009)
  • Portugal (2010)
  • Iceland (2010)
  • Argentina (2010)
  • Denmark (2012)
  • Brazil (2013)
  • France (2013)
  • Uruguay (2013)
  • New Zealand (2013)
  • Luxembourg (2015)
  • Ireland (2015)
  • United States (nationwide 2015)
  • Colombia (2016)
  • Finland (from 2017)

Marriage equality is also recognised in some parts of Mexico and the United Kingdom (England, Wales & Scotland, although it remains unlawful in Northern Ireland).

I think most lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Australians probably accepted lagging behind the Netherlands on this particular reform (well, most social changes actually), and trailing their Southern neighbours Belgium too. Although it was perhaps a little bit of a surprise that highly-Catholic Spain would get there so quickly – but I guess we got used to that.

Canada was less of a surprise. Meanwhile, no-one could begrudge South Africa, especially given it was achieved, in part, as a consequence of the inclusive Constitution adopted in the post-apartheid era. And I suppose we probably couldn’t expect to get there ahead of most of the Scandinavian countries either.

But the longer this list has become – and, sadly, it will likely be longer still by the time we eventually get there – the more embarrassing it has become to be an Australian, and that embarrassment stings whether you are an LGBTI individual, or couple, or simply someone who believes in the equality of all people irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.

It didn’t need to be this way. I am old enough to remember a time, in my youth, when, at least at the Commonwealth level, Australia was capable of doing some things better than most of the world. When we adopted a world-leading response to the emergence of HIV/AIDS. When we were one of the first countries to recognise same-sex couples for the purposes of immigration. When we allowed ‘gays in the military’ ahead of, or at the same time as, the majority of our peers.

Alas, no more. On what has become one of the signature issues for progressive reform, not just for LGBTI rights but for social justice more generally, we have fallen, and are falling further, behind.

It has to stick in the craw of most decent Australians that the New Zealand Parliament managed to pass marriage equality, even with a Conservative Government, while at the same time our Parliament, with a then-Labor Government, could not. And thinking about the fact that LGBTI couples have been able to get married in the cornfields of the American mid-West (Iowa) for more than seven years (and can now marry everywhere in the US, from Alabama to Alaska), while we cannot, is enough to make one cringe.

My fiancé, Steve, likes to talk about how ‘his’ country (Portugal) has had marriage equality for six years – even though his parents left there in the 1970s. In recent years my response to that argument has been to point out that ‘my’ country (Scotland) has it, too – but then, my ancestors have been in Australia for more than two centuries, so it is even more difficult for me to stake that claim.

We only talk about our respective ancestral countries in that way because the one where we were both born, and where we are (second-class) citizens, refuses to acknowledge that our love can be the same as any other adult couple. In truth, at times we would prefer to identify with another country – even one where our links might be more (mine) or less (his) tenuous – because being a citizen of Australia is, and there isn’t really a nicer way of putting it, downright embarrassing.

There are, of course, many other reasons for Australians to feel embarrassed (including our shameful treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and also our, frankly, criminal abuse of people seeking asylum). But the ongoing failure of our country to recognise marriage equality must also take its very own place on that ignominious list. Shame, Australia, shame.

Abbott-Turnbull-Gillard-Rudd-750x393

The four Australian Prime Ministers since John Howard was defeated have all failed to overturn his 2004 ban on marriage equality.

No 8 Marriage Equality Marches on Around the World

In contrast to the lack of sustained progress in Australia, internationally marriage equality continued its onwards march in 2013. In fact, we end the year with approximately 10% of the world’s population now living in jurisdictions where same-sex couples are able to get married.

That seemed like an impossible goal five years ago, let alone way back in 2001 when the Netherlands had the somewhat radical (but in reality also rather conservative) idea that all couples should be allowed to wed, irrespective of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.

In 2013, marriage equality became a reality for couples in Brazil (16 May), France (18 May), Uruguay (5 August) and New Zealand (19 August). Which means 15 countries now treat all of their couples equally. It should also be noted that England and Wales also passed marriage equality during the year, although it won’t commence until March 29 2014 (NB Given Scotland has yet to pass marriage equality, and it looks unlikely to pass Northern Ireland, I do not include the United Kingdom in the number of countries with full equality).

There was just as much progress in the United States – both through the courts, and through legislatures around the country.

First, to the two momentous decisions of the US Supreme Court, both handed down on 26 June. In one, plaintiff Edith Windsor (a phenomenal woman, and deserved nominee for Time Person of the Year) was successful in her case that the Defense of Marriage Act, passed by Congress and signed by then President Bill Clinton back in 1996, was in fact unconstitutional.

The Court declared DOMA to be “a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment”. The consequence of this decision is that the US Federal Government is compelled to recognise the validity, and entitlements, of couples who are married under various state laws providing marriage equality around the country.

In the second decision, the Supreme Court struck down California’s Proposition 8 from 2008, a ballot initiative which had outlawed same-sex marriages just five months after they commenced in June of that year. The Supreme Court, in Hollingsworth v Perry found that the appeal, by people seeking to uphold the marriage ban, did not have standing meaning that a lower court ruling, reinstating marriage equality, stood. Californian same-sex marriages resumed shortly after this decision.

Probably more important has been the ongoing moves to introduce marriage equality through state legislatures. The year started with marriage equality taking effect in Maryland on 1 January, and it was followed by Delaware (1 July), Minnesota (1 August), Rhode Island (1 August), New Jersey (21 October – although this was largely the result of a state court case, after the Governor had previously vetoed marriage equality legislation), and Hawaii (2 December), with Illinois to commence formally on 1 June next year (although couples where a partner has a serious illness can marry now).

This is remarkable progress – and underscores just how conservative Australia is by comparison. After all, if roughly one third of US states (plus DC) have already introduced marriage equality, and with progress in Australia looking several more years away, we have well and truly cemented our place as the backwater of the Anglo-sphere on this issue.

In fact, Australia, with last week’s High Court decision overturning the ACT’s same-sex marriage laws, has provided one of the few ‘lowlights’ of the global marriage equality movement. The other that springs immediately to mind was the recent referendum in Croatia which, by a margin of 65% to 35%, voted to enshrine the definition of marriage as “a living union of a woman and a man” in that country’s constitution. Shame.

Leaving Australia and Croatia aside, though, the prospects for continued global progress on marriage equality look assured. It is highly likely that Scotland will pass equality early next year, and, after its elections this week, there is a good chance of Chile following suit (which would make it the fourth South American country to do so). I am sure that other countries, and more US states, will also take the plunge in the next 12 months.

Which leaves LGBTI-inclusive couples in Australia with a helluva lot more choices in overseas places where they can get married. Which is all very nice and well, but what we really want is the ability to marry at home, in front of our family and friends. Til then, we will continue to fall further and further behind the rest of the world.

I was going to end there but, contrary to my usual nature, I will instead sign off with my personal highlight of global marriage equality in 2013 – and that was the moment that marriage equality passed across the Tasman, and in particular the singing of a traditional Maori love song immediately afterwards. I challenge you to watch this and not get chills down your spine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9pOJ8Bc_-g

UPDATE: Just 3 days after I posted this, and two more US states have legalised same-sex marriage – New Mexico and Utah – bringing the total number to 18 (plus DC). With this rate of progress it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of developments, which, as an LGBTI activist, is a wonderful (and somewhat novel), problem to have. May it continue into 2014.

Liberal-National Policies on LGBTI Issues for Federal Election 2013

I was tempted to leave the content of this article completely blank, because that would be a reasonably accurate reflection of the LGBTI policies of the Liberal-National Parties for the election that is now only two days away. That is because, outside of two not very encouraging exceptions, the Coalition doesn’t appear to have any LGBTI policies for this year’s poll.

The Real Solutions booklet, which Tony Abbott and his team have been clutching tight for most of this year, makes no mention of LGBTI Australians. And, as far as I can tell, none of the policies which have been put up on the Liberal campaign website do so either (although I am happy to be corrected).

The two exceptions that I mention include Abbott’s signature Paid Parental Leave scheme (covered in my blog post earlier this week, a commitment which does not include references to same-sex couples in the formal policy document, but which Abbott, Hockey and O’Dwyer have subsequently been forced to confirm will include LGBTI parents).

And the second exception is marriage equality, which does not actually involve a policy commitment at all, only that the decision will be left to a post-election party-room to decide whether to have a conscience vote in the next term, rather than having a formal position against (although the Opposition Leader has made his own views – which remain strongly opposed to marriage equality – very clear).

This paucity of policies was confirmed through the 2013 LGBTI Federal Election Survey, which was recently conducted by the NSW Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby, Victorian Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby, Transgender Victoria and Organisation Intersex International Australia. This was a question and answer document, with 43 different questions spread over 12 distinct topics.

Unfortunately, while the ALP and Greens provided individual answers to all 43 questions, the Liberal-National Coalition did not provide individual answers, instead they provided a cover letter, and two-and-a-bit page attachment, which provided broad brushstrokes but very few details of what they will (and won’t) do.

The LGBTI groups I mentioned then analysed this response according to four different categories: Yes/Good Response, Qualified/Partial Response, No/Bad Response and Response does not answer the question. (For a copy of the survey documents, including the Liberal-National letter and the assessment made by the four groups, go to www.lgbti2013.org.au)

The result: for a full 29 of the 43 questions asked (ie two thirds of the total), the Liberal-National Parties’ response was deemed to not answer the question at all. In fact, in only 4 out of 43 responses (less than 10%) were the Liberal-Nationals deemed to give a positive response, with 8 qualifieds, and 2 outright nos. By way of comparison, the LGBTI groups deemed that the ALP did not answer 4 questions out of 43, and the Greens only 1 out of the 43 questions, and the clear majority of both responses were deemed to be Yes/Good.

Given that they answered less than a third of the questions asked, it is no surprise that there are entire policy areas which the Liberal-National Coalition have simply not taken a position on, and these touch a number of things which are very important to different sections of the LGBTI community.

Specifically, the Abbott Liberal-National Coalition failed to provide an answer on:

  • Whether they support the recent amendments to the Sex Discrimination Act which have prohibited discrimination against LGBT people by religious organisations in aged care services
  • Whether they oppose the introduction of civil unions before the passage of marriage equality
  • Whether they will continue to issue Certificates of No Impediment, which currently allow Australian couples to marry in other countries which have already legislated for marriage equality
  • Whether they will attempt to overrule States and Territories that introduce marriage equality (either through new legislation or High Court challenge)
  • Whether they will continue to fund dedicated LGBTI health initiatives, outside of HIV, and (possibly) some mental health initiatives
  • Whether they will retain the dedicated National LGBTI Ageing and Aged Care Strategy, and keep LGBTI as a special needs group in the Aged Care Act
  • Whether they will provide public funding for trans* surgeries
  • Whether they would help end ‘normalising’ surgery (including coerced sterilisation) on intersex infants
  • Whether they will use foreign policies resources to advocate specifically for decriminalisation of homosexuality around the world and
  • Whether they support the ‘resettlement’ of LGBTI refugees in countries that criminalise homosexuality (such as Papua New Guinea and Nauru).

As you can see, that is a pretty impressive roll-call of issues which the Liberal-National Coalition failed to provide an answer on. In my personal opinion, I think that this is a pretty disappointing (*alert: possible understatement) level of detail from people who will likely be occupying the Government benches from next week.

One interpretation of this would be that, by not answering these questions, they are leaving open the possibility of doing any and all of them (which could include doing positive things which they have not answered, but could equally involve doing a range of negative things, including taking away rights for LGBTI people or funding for LGBTI initiatives).

Another interpretation would be that, by failing to outline any concrete negative plans – for example, by failing to state that they will bring back religious exemptions in aged care services in the Sex Discrimination Act – even after being specifically asked, they will not have a mandate to do these when in Government. After all, it is difficult to claim a mandate to roll back rights or strip funding when you keep those policies (if you have them) a secret. And that is an argument that I expect the LGBTI community will be using if the Abbott Government does adopt negative policies in these areas after the election.

NSW Same-Sex Marriage Inquiry Submission

Given the NSW Legislative Council inquiry is set to release its final report on the issue of state-based marriage laws at 3:30pm today, I thought now might be a good opportunity to publish my submission to the inquiry from back in March (but which was not published by the Committee on their website, given the overwhelming community response to this inquiry).

Anyway, as you can see it is a bit of a personal submission and I obviously stand by what I submitted, but acknowledge that I am going to need to be clearer from here on the difference between marriage equality (where all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people can marry whoever they choose), and same-sex marriage, which, as the name suggests, is much more limited but which, sadly, might be the only constitutional option available to NSW (we’ll see later today.

Anyway, here is my submission. Let me know whay you think:

Legislative Council Social Issues Committee

Inquiry into Same Sex Marriage Law in NSW

Submission by Alastair Lawrie

Friday 1 March 2013

I am writing in support of the introduction of state-based marriage laws in NSW. While, ultimately, marriage equality can only be fully realised in Australia through the passage of an inclusive federal Marriage Act, in the meantime I encourage the NSW parliament to allow lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex-inclusive (LGBTI) couples to have their relationships recognised through state-based marriage, if they so choose.

In this submission I will briefly address the four terms of reference, before discussing the story of my relationship with my fiancé Steve, and the reasons why I think we deserve the same right to be married as anybody else.

1)      Any legal issues surrounding the passing of marriage laws at a State level, including but not limited to:

  1. a.       The impact of interaction of such law with the Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961
  2. b.      The rights of any party married under such law in other States’ and Federal jurisdiction
  3. The rights of the parties married under such a law upon dissolution of the marriage.

I am not a constitutional or family law lawyer and, as such, I do not propose to discuss whether state-based marriage laws would be constitutional in great detail, or how these laws would interact with Commonwealth and other state and territory laws, or indeed, act upon the breakdown of such marriages.

I will simply note that there is legal debate about the constitutional possibilities of state-based marriage. Professor George Williams has canvassed the legal arguments in favour of state-based marriage laws in his article “Can Tasmania Legislate for Same-Sex Marriage?”[1] I think that there is at least a credible argument, as outlined in his article, to say that it is possible that the Courts could find state-based marriage to be constitutional.

It should also be remembered that there is still some doubt that an amendment to the Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 introducing marriage equality would be constitutional at the federal level. Irrespective of which level of government first introduces marriage equality, this matter will inevitably end up in the courts.

It should also be noted that the federal parliament has abrogated its responsibility in this area. By explicitly introducing a ban on equal marriage in 2004, and then rejecting legislation to overturn that ban in 2012, Australia’s federal parliamentarians have comprehensively failed in their duty to provide basic fairness and equality to its LGBTI citizens, including the LGBTI citizens of NSW. Based on the size of this defeat, and the immediate political outlook, it appears unlikely that this ban will be overturned at any point in the next five or even possibly 10 years.

In this context, with legal uncertainty about which level of Government can introduce marriage equality, and faced with the homophobic, bi-phobic, trans-phobic and anti-intersex intransigence of the federal parliament, I believe it is incumbent upon state parliamentarians to at least attempt to introduce marriage equality at a state level.

In the event that the legislation is overturned by the courts, which is as always their prerogative, nothing will have been lost. LGBTI-inclusive couples will know that there is a risk of this outcome, and will enter into any state-based marriages with open eyes. Nevertheless, if people are married and the legislation is ruled invalid at a later date, at least in the interim these couples will have the belief that they are married under law. And the overturning of these marriages by the courts may provide the spark required for the federal parliament to finally take the necessary action in this area.

In the event that the legislation is found to be valid by the courts, which is also possible, then the NSW parliament will have done a truly wonderful thing by recognising the ability of thousands of LGBTI-inclusive couples to have their relationships recognised as marriages under law, if they so desire. This would be an amazing recognition by state parliamentarians of the equality of LGBTI people, and the value of their relationships. If there is even a small chance of this outcome, then I cannot think of a valid reason for the parliament to shy away from this noble endeavour.

2)      The response of other jurisdictions both in Australia and overseas to demands for marriage equality.

The movement for marriage equality, both within Australia and across the world, is strong and only growing stronger. Despite the setback of defeat in federal parliament last September, and the subsequent defeat of Tasmanian state-based marriage legislation in late 2012, other Australian jurisdictions are still considering their own marriage equality proposals (including the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia). Indeed, it has been reported that the Tasmanian Labor Government and Greens are considering reintroducing their state-based marriage legislation after the upper house elections in the first half of this year (noting that the legislation was only narrowly defeated in their upper house).

Around the world, marriage equality has already been introduced in 11 extremely diverse countries: South Africa, Argentina, Canada, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. I am also aware of current marriage equality proposals in our near neighbours New Zealand, as well as Taiwan, Nepal, Andorra, France, Luxembourg, Finland, Scotland, England and Wales, Uruguay and Colombia (in fact, it is difficult keeping track of the long list of countries which are actively considering this issue, which means I am sure to have missed some).

In other countries with federal structures of government, state-based marriage equality has been introduced in some states of Brazil, Mexico and the United States. The United States is the best illustration of the ongoing progress of the movement for marriage equality. It is now legal there in nine states (Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia). While in early-adopting US jurisdictions marriage equality was introduced through either court decisions or legislative reforms (or through a combination of both), the recent additions of Maryland, Maine and Washington were the result of popular ballots (and a referendum to ban marriage equality was also defeated in Minnesota last November).

The tide of public opinion across the world is turning in favour of marriage equality, and this is one reason why 11 national governments, and some sub-national states, have introduced LGBTI equality. It is my hope that the Australian Government eventually comes to the same conclusion – but in the meantime, I believe that the parliamentarians of NSW have an ethical obligation to, at least partially, fill that void.

3)      Any alternative models of legislation including civil unions.

In some jurisdictions, civil unions have been offered as a supposed compromise proposal between the LGBTI community on the one hand, who are calling for formal relationship recognition, and religious fundamentalists on the other, who believe that the term marriage is reserved only for ‘traditional heterosexual’ couples and that, while substantive rights can be conferred on non-heterosexual couples, these relationships should carry a different name (ie civil unions or civil partnerships).

In truth, this is not a genuine compromise but instead simply a reinforcement or further entrenchment of inequality. Deliberately choosing a separate name inherently makes those relationships ‘different’ or ‘other’. Saying that opposite-sex/heterosexual couples can be ‘married’, while all other couples can only be ‘civil unioned’, does not overcome inequality; it simply perpetuates it, finding a novel way to demonstrate that those relationships are second-class.

The idea that different groups of people can be considered equal while having separate institutions has been tried before, in many different countries and applying to many different groups (including groups based on race, religion and sex). In none of these different contexts has it actually meant genuine equality. In terms of racial segregation, the US Supreme Court, in the famous case of Brown v Board of Education (1954), saw through the conceit of this concept and instead found that ‘separate but equal is never equal’.

That principle applies just as much to LGBTI people, and to their relationship recognition. To set up an entirely new system of relationship recognition for LGBTI-inclusive couples, and to maintain that system separate from the relationship recognition granted to heterosexual/opposite-sex couples, is not genuine equality. It is no wonder that the vast majority of LGBTI people reject this type of distinction and instead demand full equality. We will accept nothing less.

There are two additional points which should be made in relation to civil unions. The first is that civil unions have been adopted in some jurisdictions which are quite similar to Australia – including New Zealand, the United Kingdom and some US states. In none of these places have civil unions been adopted as a long-term solution – as described above, New Zealand, Scotland, England and Wales are all actively considering moving to marriage equality in the near future (and in several US states civil unions were merely a precursor to marriage equality). Civil unions have proved to be only an inconvenient half-way house or road-stop along the toad to equality, merely delaying full equality and ultimately pleasing no-one. There is no reason why NSW should adopt such a flawed approach.

Secondly, in some jurisdictions, particularly US states, civil unions have held some attraction because they did not have de facto recognition laws in place beforehand, meaning that the introduction of civil unions at least had the advantage of conferring additional substantive rights which LGBTI-inclusive couples did not already possess. Given that NSW and Australia have both passed comprehensive de facto relationship recognition for LGBTI-inclusive couples, this reason does not apply here. Once again, there is no justification for a new and separate category of relationships called civil unions.

4)      Changes in social attitudes (if any) to marriage in Australia.

The concept of marriage has undergone many changes over time. Originally an institution which involved male ownership of women (with that ownership passing from the father to the husband), the law now recognises the two parties to a marriage to be equal. In some countries and at some points in time, there were also laws against marriage between races – happily miscegenation laws are a thing of the past. The majority of marriages used to be performed within churches, whereas now the vast majority of weddings are officiated by civil celebrants. And the ideas of divorce, and later no-fault divorce, have been added to our marriage laws, without undermining the institution itself.

These changes show that the institution of marriage has evolved over time, changing for the better to accommodate ongoing enlightenment in societal attitudes on gender, race, religion and relationship breakdown. Through these changes, what we now understand as the fundamental nature of marriage – that it is an institution to recognise the love and commitment between two people – has not altered.

This meaning can evolve again to accommodate the fact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are equal citizens, and should be treated equally in every respect, including relationship recognition. If society, through its laws, conveys certain rights on opposite-sex/heterosexual couples, there is no good argument to deny those same rights to other people on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.

This is a proposition which has been accepted by the majority of the Australian population. Opinion poll after opinion poll has shown that a growing majority of people support the extension of marriage rights to all adult couples, whether opposite-sex/heterosexual or LGBTI-inclusive. A Galaxy Poll in August 2012 found that 64% of Australians supported marriage equality, with only 30% opposed. This support existed across men and women, across all age groups, and from voters of all political persuasions.

The figures for NSW were consistent with this level of support – 62% of people in NSW supported marriage equality, including 28% strongly supporting, while only 32% in total were opposed. I am loathe to cite opinion polls as a stand-alone reason for social change (see Appendix A for further discussion of this point). Nevertheless, it is clear that the population have already accepted the solid public policy reasons for marriage equality – our parliamentarians should do the same.

Steve and me

My fiancé Steve and I have been together for more than four and a half years. We met two weeks after my 30th birthday. I had begun to think that I might not ever meet the person who I was supposed to be with, and then suddenly, he was standing right there in front of me.

Steve and I are the epitome of your average, everyday couple. We have our ups and downs, just like everyone else, but we know that we love each other and that is enough to get us through.

We live our lives in the suburbs. We both work, and are trying to save enough money to buy a house (and, like other couples, are finding it hard in the Sydney property market!) We might have children in the future, we might not – we certainly want to own our own house and be settled in one place before we seriously consider doing so.

Steve and I make compromises for each other – he moved to Canberra to be with me when I was working there, and I have subsequently moved to Sydney when he wanted to move back. We do most things together, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

We got engaged more than 3 years ago. I took him on a holiday to Melbourne, and was so incredibly happy when I got down on bended knee and he said yes. I still can’t believe that someone as wonderful as him has agreed to spend the rest of his life with me.

We want to have our wedding in Australia – that is why we decided to wait for last year’s Marriage Act Amendment Bills to be considered by the federal parliament, in the hope that our federal parliamentarians might allow us to get married in the same way that opposite-sex/heterosexual couples can.

Steve and I decided that, after that terribly disappointing defeat, we would nevertheless wait for the NSW state-based marriage proposal to be debated before making the decision about finally setting a date, and most importantly, a venue. Of course, state-based marriage is not quite the same – it involves setting up a new marriage scheme separate from the existing one. But we think that it would be incredibly powerful to have our marriage recognised by the state in which we live.

If the NSW marriage amendment is defeated, then we will not wait any longer. More than three years is long enough – and I certainly don’t think many heterosexual couples would accept their engagement being made that long because their government(s) refused to allow them to tie the knot. They certainly wouldn’t accept potentially being made to wait more than 10 years, which is possible if both the federal and state parliament voted no on this issue.

Obviously, that means Steve and I will have to go overseas to get married. If New Zealand passes their law in the first half of this year, then we would most likely go there. One of the advantages of New Zealand as a location is that at least some of our family members and friends might be able to join us on our special day. If New Zealand doesn’t pass marriage equality, then we are thinking we might go to New York.

That is not as romantic as it might sound. While some of it would obviously be wonderful, and I will be happy wherever I get to marry my husband, it will also be bittersweet because we would be doing so in the absence of most of our family and friends, who would not be able to travel there (whether because they could not get enough time off work, could not afford the expense, have young children, are too old, or have health problems and cannot travel that far).

Imagine that – the decisions of your government(s) effectively determining the guest list at your wedding. No other married couples would tolerate that, and nor do we. In particular, Steve and I both have grandmothers who we love very dearly, and would love to have them with us – Steve in particular would be devastated if his grandmother was unable to attend our wedding.

If we were able to get married in Sydney, then at the very least his grandmother should be able to join us (and if it had been in place federally when we first got engaged my grandmother might have been able to join us too, although she is now probably getting too old to even travel to Sydney). As it stands, if we are forced to go to New Zealand, then neither of our grandmothers would be able to join us due to their age and health.

These are the real world consequences of the decision made by the federal parliament last year, and the potential consequences of your decision later this year. Please consider them before you cast your vote on this issue.

And please do not consider passing civil unions as some kind of supposed ‘compromise’ between the LGBTI community and religious fundamentalists. Steve and I are engaged to be married, not civil union-ed. When I proposed to him, I asked whether he would marry me – and when we do (finally) have our wedding, I will be asking him to be my husband, not my civil partner.

Civil unions, passed in the absence of marriage equality, are inherently second-best. Steve and I do not accept them as a substitute, and nor should we have to.

There are thousands of other LGBTI-inclusive couples in NSW, just like Steve and me, waiting to get married. We are the couples who watched last year while the federal parliament deliberated on our fundamental human rights and who, sadly, decided that we are not first-class citizens in our own country, that our relationships are not deserving of the same recognition as others.

We will be watching again later this year, when it comes time for NSW parliamentarians to cast their votes. Hopefully, the members of the NSW Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council can ‘show up’ their federal counterparts, by demonstrating just how easy it is to make thousands of people profoundly happy.

After all, that is the ultimate consequence of this vote. There is no downside in voting to allow additional couples to celebrate their love by getting married. But the upside is immense – being able to make many thousands of LGBTI-inclusive couples, and their families and friends, happy. I don’t think the choice is that hard – please make the right one.


[1] Williams, George, “Can Tasmania Legislate for Same-Sex Marriage?”, The University of Tasmania Law Review, Vol 31, No 2, 2012, pp117-133.

Submission to Scottish Marriage Equality Consultation

Today I made a submission to the Scottish Government’s consultation on their Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. Submissions close 5pm Wednesday 20 March 2013(Scottish time). Below is the text of comments which I made in addition to the model response to the Bill provided on the Equal Marriage UK website: http://www.equalmarriage.org.uk/takeaction I encourage other people to make a submission if you have time.

Scotland flag

I am writing this submission in support of marriage equality as an Australian of Scottish descent, and therefore someone who wishes to see Scotland leading on a key progressive issue. I am also a gay man, engaged to be married to a wonderful partner, but currently prohibited from doing so by my own government. As a result, I am keenly aware of the negative consequences of the imposition of inequality in relationship recognition on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status.

I do not propose to detail the general arguments in favour marriage equality here because I am confident that LGBTI people in Scotland, and their families and friends, will be able to do so far more eloquently than I could. However, from my vantage point on the other side of the world, I do wish to highlight the potential symbolic importance of a move by the government of Scotland to finally accept lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people as equal citizens.

I sincerely believe that the introduction of marriage equality by the Scottish parliament would have precedent value for other members of the Commonwealth of Nations. As one of the first countries colonised by the English, and one of the last to adopt any form of self-government, Scotland embracing LGBTI human rights in this way would demonstrate that it is possible to overcome the history of homophobia which often accompanied imperialism.

Together with the expected passage of marriage equality in England and Wales in the near future, and on top of earlier moves by Canada and South Africa, Scotland would be sending a signal to other members of the Commonwealth that LGBTI people deserve equal treatment under the law. This is especially important because 41 Commonwealth countries continue to impose criminal penalties for homosexuality, and with homosexuality attracting life imprisonment in six of these.

There are also two upcoming events of symbolic significance within Scotland which, I believe, would be enhanced by the passage of marriage equality. The first is the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in July and August 2014. I think it would be a wonderful achievement if these were to be the first games held on soil where LGBTI people were full and equal citizens. This would deliver a message of acceptance of different sexual orientations, gender identities and of intersex people to those Commonwealth countries who attend.

The second event with symbolic significance is the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence, which is currently expected to be held in the autumn of 2014. I submit that it is important to remove the blemish of legislated discrimination against LGBTI people ahead of this referendum: if the Scottish people are to embrace independence, then surely all of its citizens should be able to celebrate this achievement as equals. This newly-independent country, if that is the outcome of the referendum, should be able to start its life with a clean slate, and not one that has been tarnished by homophobia, bi-phobia, trans-phobia and anti-intersex prejudice.

Of course, I am not writing this submission completely unmotivated by self-interest. If Scotland were to adopt marriage equality, it would add another name to the long list of countries which have left Australia behind on this issue. Our near neighbours New Zealand look likely to do the same in the next few months. Hopefully, as the marriage equality movement continues to sweep the world, my own government will finally be embarrassed into action on this issue.

Leaving self-interest aside, and irrespective of the symbolic arguments which I have outlined above, the most powerful argument in favour of marriage equality must always be the thousands of LGBTI-inclusive couples in Scotland who would be able to take advantage of this Bill if and when it is eventually passed. The happiness of these couples would be immeasurably increased by a law which does not deny anyone else their rights, but simply extends the rights which one group already has to other communities.

I know how important and affirming it would be to have legal recognition of my relationship with my fiancé. The LGBTI people of Scotland are no different in terms of their hopes and aspirations for full legal equality. I hope that Scottish parliamentarians listen to these voices before deciding whether to say “Yes” or “No” to the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. Ultimately, any person should be able to determine for themselves whether to say “I do”.

NSW State Same-Sex Marriage Inquiry Introductory Comments

On Friday (15 March 2013) I had the privilege of appearing with the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby at the Legislative Council inquiry hearings into state-based same-sex marriage laws. While the Lobby’s co-convenor Justin Koonin gave some brilliant introductory comments on behalf of the Lobby and gay and lesbian communities more generally, I was able to give an introductory statement outlining how the issue of marriage equality affects me personally (and of course Steve too, who attended in the public gallery).

Below is the text of the statement which I read out at the inquiry hearings (I will provide a link to the published transcript of the full proceedings, including questions and answers, when they are published on the NSW Parliament website):

NSW State Same-Sex Marriage Inquiry Introductory Comments

I have been asked to appear on behalf of the Lobby as both a Committee member, and as someone who is directly affected by whether state-based same-sex marriage is introduced in NSW.

My fiancé Steve and I have been together for more than four and a half years, and we have been engaged for more than 3. Needless to say, he made me the happiest man alive when he said yes when I asked him to marry me in January 2010. And yes, I did get down on bended knee to propose.

However, unlike most engaged couples, we knew that, because of the 2004 federal Marriage Act amendments, our prospective wedding would not be legally recognised in our own country, and that the federal government did not issue Certificates of Non Impediment to get married overseas.

Since then, we have been actively playing the ‘waiting game’’: waiting to see if the ALP National Conference would agree to marriage equality, waiting to see how federal parliament would vote, and now waiting to see whether NSW will introduce same-sex marriage – more than 3 years since Steve said “Of course I will”, we are still waiting to see whether we can both legally say “I do.”

Of course, we cannot and will not wait forever. Fortunately, CNIs can now be issued, so getting married in another country is a possibility. This could even include New Zealand, after this week’s successful 2nd reading debate vote there.

But getting married in another country is significantly more expensive, means that many family members and friends would not be able to attend our special day, and still would not be legally recognised at home.

Please don’t misunderstand me – we are glad to have more choices than we did back in January 2010. But those choices come with costs – legal, financial, social, and emotional. Steve and I, and thousands of other same-sex couples across NSW, are confronted with these negative consequences right now.

Critics of marriage equality often claim that its introduction would be a form of social engineering. To the contrary, I submit it is social engineering to determine that only people of a particular sexual orientation, or indeed gender identity or sex, have certain rights.

Surely it is an arbitrary and intrusive level of state intervention for governments to determine on these grounds whether a couple can get married under law, how long they might have to wait, whether they have to go overseas, and as a result, how much it costs, or even who can attend.

These are the real world consequences of the upcoming decision by NSW parliament on whether its same-sex attracted citizens can get married.

Loaded Dog Piece on Marriage Equality

The passage of a marriage equality bill in the UK House of Commons earlier this week (meaning that marriage equality looks likely in England and Wales later this year), prompted renewed discussion of this issue in Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald/Sunday Sun-Herald Loaded Dog section sought 150 word comments from readers on the topic “Should gay marriage be an election issue?”

I submitted the following piece, which was published this morning. On the positve side, it was the first ‘reader’s’ comment published, and meant my opinion was presented on the same page as equality advocate, athlete ally and all-round good guy David Pocock.

On the flipside, in the online version at least, my comment was published directly below the incoherent, homophobic ramblings of suspended Katter candidate Bernard Gaynor.

Anyway, here is what I submitted, followed by a link to what was published:

My partner Steve and I have been together for four and a half years, and engaged for three. We are the epitome of your average couple –except we are not allowed to get married in our own country, simply because of who we love.

We could marry overseas, but that would be prohibitively expensive, and mean that many family members and friends would be unable to celebrate with us.

Instead, we wait for the day we are finally treated equally here. In the meantime, we both have elderly grandmothers that we love, but who may no longer be around when we can legally wed in Australia.

If you are heterosexual and oppose marriage equality, please consider this: would you accept the Government deciding that you couldn’t get married, or making you get married in another country, or forcing you to wait 10 years? I didn’t think so. Neither do we.

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/should-gay-marriage-be-an-election-issue-20130209-2e4yy.html

Senate Submission on Marriage Equality

Earlier this year, I made a lengthy submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010. I – and 79,200 other Australians. The majority of these (approximately 46,400 submissions) were in favour of marriage equality, although we all know that our parliamentarians ultimately ignored them, and many other public policy arguments, as they voted to entrench discrimination against LGBTI Australians.

Unfortunately, given the volume of submissions received, the Committee chose to only publish 360 submissions in total, and mine was not one of the select few. As the year draws to a close I thought I might publish what I submitted to the Committee. On reflection, it does tend toward the ‘ranty’ at times, but I think this simply reflects the passion which I felt (and still feel) on the issue. Which also helps to explain the length. Fortunately, I will be able to reuse much of this submission as the NSW Parliament has its own inquiry into marriage equality in the first half of 2013.

Anyway, here is the full text of my submission:

Submission to the Senate Inquiry into Marriage Equality

Please note that this submission reflects my personal views only and does not reflect the views of any other person or organisation.

Introduction

I am writing to strongly support the urgent introduction of marriage equality, and to call for the federal parliament to remove one of the final major pieces of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians.

It is somewhat frustrating to have to go through this process in 2012. To have to, once again, ask for the rights which should be granted as a matter of course, to demand action to remove a form of discrimination which should have been erased from the law books long ago. Of course, this frustration has been shared in the past by campaigners for gender and racial equality, who were forced to continue to protest and take action to gain equality, long after it should have been introduced. But just because this frustration is shared, doesn’t mean it is any less disheartening.

And it is also disheartening to have to engage in the same debate, to have to listen to the same so-called arguments against marriage equality, which are generally based on either prejudice (on a bad day) or ignorance (on a good one). The arguments for equality, which include the recognition of love, the introduction of genuine equality irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity, and the symbolism of acceptance, are so compelling that the debate on this issue has already been won, amongst the family and friends of LGBTI Australians, in the wider community, and in the public sphere. The majority of Australians have come to recognise that marriage equality is something that should have already happened.

In fact, the only place where support for marriage equality seems to be in the minority is in the federal parliament. Well, later this year, our 226 elected representatives have the opportunity to finally redress this injustice. Our federal parliamentarians have the chance to treat love equally, to show that all Australians should be treated fairly no matter who they are attracted to, in short, to bring Australia into the 21st century.

But it is more than simply a chance to do what is right, it is an obligation. Our 226 elected representatives have an obligation to represent all of their constituents, not just the heterosexual ones. They have a responsibility to respect the rights of a minority, even when other groups demand that the law be used as a weapon to discriminate against that minority. Our elected representatives should be striving to eliminate homophobia, in the same way that our society continues to strive to overcome sexism or racism.

I hope that, later this year, our federal parliamentarians will seize this historic opportunity, and fulfil their obligations, to support the passage of marriage equality.

The major arguments against same-sex marriage

To begin the substantive part of this submission, I would like to rebut the main arguments which our opponents use to deny marriage equality, namely, that marriage is about religion, that marriage is about children, and that marriage is about tradition. Each of these is fundamentally wrong, as I will explain:

i)                    Marriage is a religious institution which cannot accommodate same-sex couples

There are so many things wrong with this statement it is difficult to know where to start. It is completely inaccurate and inappropriate in contemporary Australia. There is no religious test for people who wish to get married – anyone is welcome (christian, muslim, jew, hindu, buddhist, atheist and agnostic alike). And it goes without saying that, despite historical restrictions on religious ‘intermarriage’, people can also marry outside their religious affiliation, so it therefore cannot be considered a sacrament to a particular god. Marriage ceremonies also do not need to be religious – indeed, the vast majority of ceremonies are performed civilly (65% in 2008). Above all, a marriage in modern Australia is more likely to be simply a celebration of the love between two people, shared by their family and friends, than a solemn vow in front of their god or gods.

More fundamentally, the federal Marriage Act, which defines marriage and from which its legal rights and obligations flow, is a secular law, passed by a secular parliament, within an entirely secular system of government. Or to put it another way, because of the separation of church and state, Australia is not legally or formally a christian country, and its laws are not the exclusive plaything of christians. This is the only fair approach in a modern society – surely it is unjust to impose religious laws on those who are not ‘believers’, or deny citizens equal rights on the basis of their religion, or their lack of religion.

The most extreme example of the ‘gay marriage should be banned because of religion argument’ is a convoluted one, which goes something like: for some people, marriage is religious, and they would not accept same-sex marriage, so the granting of same-sex marriages to others would somehow be an infringement of their religious freedom. This has absolutely no weight, confusing as it does the freedom of religion (for religious people to conduct a wedding in the manner of their choosing) with a supposed freedom to impose their religious views on others (and thereby infringing on the equally important freedom from religion).

It also conveniently ignores the fact that several religious organisations would themselves like the right to perform same-sex marriages, so a same-sex marriage ban would infringe on their freedom of religion. Finally, I believe that religious differences can easily be accommodated by the current exemptions within the Marriage Act, which mean that no religious celebrant can be compelled to officiate over any ceremony which they do not support. Nothing in any current proposal for marriage equality would compel a church to allow same-sex ceremonies where they do not wish.

All in all, there is absolutely no religious reason why marriage should remain exclusively between men and women.

ii)                   Marriage is about children and therefore gay men and lesbians need not apply

The regularly-raised Simpsons-esque ‘won’t somebody think of the children’ argument also has no substance whatsoever. Apparently, marriage is about children and only those opposite-sex couples who intend to have children, and indeed who are capable of having children, should get married. I say apparently, because it seems a lot of married couples didn’t get that memo. Think of the people who get married beyond their natural reproductive age. Or who get married and have absolutely no intention of having children. Or who get married and are incapable of having children.

It also seems to have escaped the marriage vows ‘industry’. I can’t recall anyone getting married and promising to have the other person’s children. Instead, marriage vows, quite understandably, seem to focus on the love between two people. In fact, the book of common prayer vows state “to be my lawful wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, til death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.” There is no mention of children, and after all, wouldn’t it be included here if bearing children were so central to the rite of marriage?

The next variation of ‘won’t somebody think of the children’, claims that the best way to raise children is within heterosexual married families, as only opposite sex couples can reproduce naturally and only marriage provides a stable family environment. Once again, this proposition is full of holes. It ignores the reality that many gay and lesbian couples are having children, whether through surrogacy, artificial insemination or adoption. These rainbow families are real, and they are increasing. They are also good parents – independent studies by reputable psychologists have found that children raised by rainbow families are doing fine. In 2007, the Australian Psychological Society found that “parenting practices and children’s outcomes in families parented by lesbian and gay parents are likely to be at least as favourable as those in families of heterosexual parents, despite the reality that considerable legal discrimination and inequity remain significant challenges for these families.” If people genuinely cared about the children of these families, surely we should be arguing for the right of their parents to get married, if they so desire.

The ‘straight married families are best’ argument is also incredibly disrespectful to the diverse range of families in contemporary Australia. There are many wonderful married opposite sex parents, just as there are awful married opposite sex ones. That split applies equally to unmarried opposite couples too. There are amazing single parents, just as there are terrible ones. There are couples who stay together for the sake of their children, but probably shouldn’t. And there are all kinds of families who do the best they can for their child or children, no matter what the situation. In short, family structure does not guarantee anything, but the love of a good parent or parents counts for so much more.

So, that leaves just one of the most commonly used troika of arguments against equal marriage to rebut.

iii)                 Marriage is about tradition and it should remain ‘just the way it is’

This is the weakest argument of the three. Tradition as an argument only works where it meets one necessary pre-condition: that the tradition involved is an inherently good one. This is because tradition alone is never enough to justify the retention of a fundamentally flawed institution. Australia, and indeed the western world, has done away with many social policies over time that were once deemed traditional: slavery was traditional, terra nullius was a long-held custom, and yet both have been quite rightly swept away because they were abhorrent.

To argue against changing something, solely because of tradition, to unquestioningly state that what is now, is what automatically should be, forever more, is quite plainly a ridiculous position to adopt.

Many of the features of modern Australia would not exist if our predecessors had blindly worshipped at the altar of tradition – women would not have the right to vote, let alone be Prime Minister, and indigenous Australians would still be third class citizens. Many of Australia’s major social reforms were achievements because they removed outdated and inappropriate social traditions, and not in spite of this.

In terms of marriage, it is a well-respected tradition within the community (at least in concept, if not reflected in divorce rates), and one that arguably can perform a valuable social function in terms of organising social relationships. However, one must be careful to distinguish between the feature that gives it value – that marriage is the union of two people in a loving relationship – and other traditions which are associated with it, but not a core element. That is why the essential meaning of marriage has survived, despite the significant changes that have been made to the institution over time. For example, marriage is now seen as the union of two equals, rather than simply a man taking possession of a woman. As we have seen, marriage has gone from most being performed religiously, to most being civil. Marriage between races was once prohibited, now miscegenation laws are (thankfully) a distant memory. The introduction of divorce laws, in the first instance, and then later of no-fault divorce, have both been welcome improvements to the operation of marriage, but have not fundamentally altered its underlying meaning.

That is why, although marriage itself may be traditional, and the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage has a long history, support for the former does not mean hanging desperately onto the latter. The exclusion of lesbians and gay men from marriage is not an inherently good tradition, worthy of continuation, especially when we have finally reached a point as a society where we understand that all citizens should be treated equally, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity. At least a dozen other countries have shown that you can amend marriage laws, removing the homophobic exclusion of same-sex couples, and yet retain its core meaning (of recognising the love between two people). The tradition of marriage does not mean that it cannot or should not ever change. To the contrary, the tradition of social progress within Australia means that we must change the marriage law to be inclusive, to reflect the 21st century. That act will not weaken the institution of marriage, it will instead make it more relevant to a new generation of Australians.

Other arguments against same-sex marriage

There are a range of other arguments which are occasionally raised in ‘defending’ the institution of marriage from the homosexual invaders. They range from the ridiculous, to what are essentially distractions, to the downright homophobic, so I will only touch on them rather than delve into too much detail.

i)                    Same-sex marriage will devalue the marriages of opposite sex couples who are already married.

This argument goes something like: marriage has a particular meaning for some people, which appears to derive value from excluding same-sex couples, and so they will feel their relationship is lessened or cheapened if same-sex couples have access to it. It is hard to engage with people who hold this view. If your marriage relies on other people being discriminated against for it to survive, then you need to focus on your relationship more and what other people do less. After all, what will it matter if Sue and Sandra down the road get married? And where do you have room in your heart for the love of your spouse, when it is already full of intolerance for people who are different to you? Your marriage will not change if my fiancé and I get married. If you want to prefer to think of marriage as being between a man and a woman, then you are free to do so in the comfort of your own relationship. But don’t deny other people their rights because of your insecurity.

The apotheosis of this argument was recently put forward, in its most ridiculous form, by Frank Brennan. He stated that “[t]he Commonwealth Parliament should not legislate to change the paradigm of marriage unless and until the majority of persons living that paradigm seek a change.” This is a novel point of view. I would love to know whether this means women should have waited for the majority of men to eventually figure out that the sexes were equal before they demanded change, or for indigenous people to be satisfied with their second-class status while white folk decided whether they were good enough or not. All citizens have the right to hold an opinion about a law, and not just those people who currently have access to a particular institution. To say otherwise denies the democratic process, and the agency of people who are discriminated against to advocate for reform.

ii)                   There will be unintended, unspecified consequences of allowing equal marriage

This argument is always vague, because its proponents can never spell out what any of these consequences might be. Because they are scared of this particular change, they suspect that the sky might fall in. In practice, the only negative consequence of gay people getting married will be gay people eventually getting divorced – in just the same way as heterosexual couples already do. No one else would be affected.

iii)                 Other issues are more important that equal marriage

It is incredibly difficult to argue against this proposition because it is basically true. There are indeed many other more important issues in the world. But, this argument ignores the fact that as a society and as a parliament we are capable of concentrating on multiple issues at the same time. And it also underestimates how easy it would be to fix this particular problem – all it would take is one bill, amending the Marriage Act and instantly, equality achieved. It is difficult to say that about many other social issues (and, in a best case scenario, could be done by the middle of the year). It is incorrect to say same-sex marriage is a distraction if it is one so readily resolved.

iv)                 The slippery slope argument

This argument starts our descent into the territory of outright homophobia. It was the one raised recently by fundamentalist christians in the Great Hall of Parliament House, when they hysterically asserted that equal marriage for LGBTI citizens will lead to men marrying children or humans marrying animals (or even inanimate objects). Not only does it raise the utterly grotesque and offensive stereotype of ‘gay men as paedophile’ (when we know that most child sexual abuse happens within the heterosexual family unit), it also completely devalues the institution of marriage itself, as the union of two equals, based on love and consent. Those conditions cannot exist in the ridiculous examples listed. The people involved in making such arguments should be laughed at when they spout such nonsense.

v)                  Equal marriage will ‘promote’ homosexuality

This argument is often followed by ‘and will lead to homosexuality being taught in schools’. Again, this argument is fundamentally based on homophobia. Apparently, if we treat lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people as equal citizens, then this will result in other, ‘normal’ people catching one of these infectious letters of the alphabet, much like catching the flu. Leaving aside the fact that being any one of these things is a perfectly natural thing (in the same way that being heterosexual is natural), it also does not reflect the reality of my experience, or anyone else I know from the LGBTI community. Saying that being gay is normal, or teaching kids that society is incredibly diverse and includes people with different sexual orientations and genders, will not mean people ‘catch’ gay or transgender. But it might just mean that a kid who is questioning his or her sexuality or gender identity will find acceptance rather than bullying, and might ultimately be spared from becoming one of the sad statistics in our epidemic of sexuality-related youth suicide.

vi)                 Gay people are not equal and do not deserve equal rights

In one sense, the people who make this argument should be respected for at least being honest, and not trying to dress their homophobia up as defending religion, children or tradition. On the other hand, if you are alive in 2012 and genuinely believe that you deserve more rights than me because you are attracted to someone of the opposite sex and I am attracted to someone of the same sex, then I feel sorry for you – the modern world must be a truly scary place to live in when you hold those bigoted views. But guess what, it is only going to get worse for you from here on – society will keep on marching towards equality, and your views will look worse and worse as time goes by.

In summary, we have seen that there are no strong arguments against the recognition of equal marriage – in fact, there are no substantive arguments at all. And even more importantly, the introduction of equality will cause no harm whatsoever. The churches will not be harmed because they will be free to not celebrate same-sex weddings. It will not make any difference to couples who are already married, or opposite-sex couples who plan to get married (well, other than some more competition for wedding venues). It will not harm children to know that there are gay people in the world – indeed, it will help some as they themselves will be same-sex attracted and it may make their coming out much easier.

The only groups who claim they will be ‘harmed’ are bigots and homophobes, as if the granting of legal rights to others compromises their own rights. This is of course not true – they are free to continue to disagree with same-sex marriage, but they should not be free to impose their prejudice on others, nor abuse the legal system in order to do so.

Arguments in favour of same sex marriage

Of course, logically, the absence of a negative does not mean a positive. While there is no reason to oppose same-sex marriage, there needs to be a positive reason for the parliament to adopt a legislative change. From my perspective, there are four main reasons: love, equality, symbolism and health benefits.

i)                    Recognition of love

The main argument for the recognition of same-sex marriage is the same reason why we have marriage at all – to celebrate the love between two people. I have attended the weddings of my sister, of my brother, of other relatives and of friends. Each ceremony has been wonderful (well, with the exception of the mandatory ‘Ruddock clause’, where the current definition of opposite sex marriage is read out, presumably to rub in the noses of gays and lesbians in attendance – this offensive piece of hateful propaganda is unnecessary in a ceremony which is essentially about love). Each ceremony also involves the warm embrace of the couple, both literally and figuratively, by their family and friends.

The love between gay couples is no different to the love between opposite sex couples, and deserves to be recognised in exactly the same way. On a more personal level, I see no reason why the love which I share with my wonderful fiancé Steve, should not be celebrated by my family and friends too. Or why we cannot stand in front of our 100 nearest and dearest and say ‘I do’. In fact, I am conscious of the fact that my parents have already reached their mid-60s. If marriage equality is lost this year, then we may have lost the opportunity for reform for 10 or 15 years.

I would be absolutely devastated if either one of my parents were not able to be here to celebrate my legal marriage simply because some people within the federal parliament now are hard of heart and mean of spirit, and want to perpetuate the ongoing discrimination against same-sex couples within our marriage law. I know that Steve feels exactly the same way – he would be gutted if either of his parents, or his grandma, were not alive when we finally had the legal right to get married in our own country. I do not understand the mentality of any parliamentarian who believes they have the right to deny that to us.

ii)                   Equality

The second argument in favour of same-sex marriage is an even simpler one. That is, people should not be treated differently on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity; straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersex and transgender people all deserve the same human rights. We have reached the point in public debate when even most of the opponents of same-sex marriage (except the truly homophobic) concede that same-sex relationships deserve all the same ‘legal rights’ as opposite sex couples. They then go into complete logic meltdown when they try and justify why they actually mean ‘all the same legal rights – except marriage’ because there is no justification to restrict the fundamental principle of equality from applying to this right as well. If gay and straight are truly equal, then same-sex marriage is not only inevitable it is also essential.

iii)                 Symbolism

No-one should underestimate the strength of this argument. It is why the gay and lesbian community is arguing so passionately, and it is also why our homophobic opponents are so upset at the possibility. If as a society we say gay people can get married, then we are saying once and for all that ‘gay is okay’. Full stop. No exceptions. Our current level of acceptance of gay people is inherently qualified – you are okay but, you are equal except, you have most of the same rights, just not all. It has led to many LGBTI Australians, myself included, feeling permanently like second-class citizens. It is also one of the reasons why I believe the internet ‘It Gets Better’ project has been so powerful and so popular. Because our parliament refuses to tell young gay and lesbian people that they are full citizens, just as worthy as their straight counterparts, it has been up to private citizens to communicate that message to their younger counterparts. I can imagine a large and incredibly diverse range of the LGBTI community collectively shedding a tear when the federal parliament delivers equal marriage, a legislative equivalent of ‘It Gets Better’, to its citizens.

iv)                 Health benefits

I touched on this earlier, in responding to those who say same-sex marriage will promote homosexuality. I suspect they mean it will ‘convert’ people or make people ‘catch gay’ (which is patently ludicrous). But, if they mean it in the sense it will encourage people who are actually lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex to accept themselves and live a happier life, then I say “Damn right!”

As most people would know, LGBTI youth are far more likely to suffer from depression, to attempt suicide or most tragically to take their own life. And as most people would know, many of these mental health problems stem from their lack of acceptance by friends, family and society at large. Being denied full equality is surely a part of this. As eloquently put by psychologist Paul Martin in the GetUp! ad on 19 November, “until we end institutionalised discrimination, same-sex attracted young people in particular will continue to suffer as a result of the message [of inequality] we are sending them”.

From personal experience, I know the pain of living in an environment which does not accept you. Growing up gay on a farm outside a small town in Queensland, with very conservative parents, and then attending a religious boarding school which made no secret of its disdain for homosexuals, I almost became one of the statistics – it is only through a combination of luck and strong will that I did not take my own life, where so many others have and sadly continue to do so. So I know that, while it would not change the world completely, introducing same-sex marriage would make things just that little bit brighter for young gays and lesbians around the country. And that can only be a positive thing.

You will note that I have excluded some of the other arguments which are commonly employed by some people. For example, I do not have a lot of time for the argument that introducing same-sex marriage will lead to an economic bonanza (that a pink wave of weddings will lead to a boom in related industries) because I think that this trivialises what is fundamentally a question of human rights.

I also do not include the growing acceptance of gay marriage, as evidenced through opinion polls, as a stand-alone justification for its introduction. I think the arguments for the introduction of same-sex marriage described above are so powerful, and the arguments against so weak, that it should be introduced irrespective of its level of community support, whether that be 20, 50 or even 80%. Human rights are human rights, and remain rights even if there is popular opposition to them.

So, we have seen that there are no substantive arguments against equal marriage, and strong arguments for its urgent introduction. Which means that the result should be straight-forward, shouldn’t it?

Civil unions are not the answer and would only be a distraction

I am growing concerned that, later this year, some parliamentarians may try and take the focus away from genuine marriage equality, and instead aim for ‘civil unions’. This worry derives from the fact that civil unions are a red herring which can easily distract otherwise sensible people from the goal of full equality. Superficially, the argument that some people have concerns about the term marriage, so why don’t we give same-sex relationships the same legal rights but call it something else (ie civil unions), is attractive. Everyone wins, right?

Wrong. Civil unions are a compromise that would satisfy no-one. Setting up an entirely new system of relationship recognition for LGBTI Australians would not end discrimination, instead it would perpetuate and entrench it. If we are trying to overcome the treatment of people as second-class citizens we would not give them a second-class relationship category. The principle of ‘separate but equal’ has been comprehensively debunked from Brown v Board of Education of Topeka 1954 onwards. Separate but equal can never be equal.

Civil unions would also only ever be a half-way house. Even in countries which have introduced civil unions as an attempted compromise, the movement for full marriage equality continues – and will likely ultimately succeed. Therefore, the introduction of civil unions here should not be countenanced, whether by people who see it is a useful stepping stone or others who see it as a useful tool to suppress or delay equality. I cannot put it any more bluntly than this – in 2012 nothing short of full equality will do. Other groups do not accept separate but equal status, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians will not accept second-class status either.

Conclusion

So, as has become clear through-out this submission, there are no strong public policy arguments against equal marriage, and several strong arguments in favour. No-one would be harmed by its introduction, and there are no other valid options except for full equality. So now is the time for our 226 elected representatives to live up to their collective responsibility and just get it done already.

One of the best aspects of this issue is just how easy it is to redress. It would take just one Act of parliament to achieve. There would be no cost involved to the government, and none to the citizen – with the exception of those couples who could then chose to enter into a marriage (a choice which should be theirs alone and not the choice of their parliamentarians to make on their behalf). There are very few times when parliament can do such a purely positive thing, to immeasurably increase the human happiness of their constituents, without any negative or cost. I implore you to take advantage of this opportunity now and not let it wait another 10 or 15 years.

I ask you that, because, on a personal level, I am engaged to a wonderful man and would dearly love to be able to get married in my own country, and to have as many of my family and friends to be there as possible. I met my fiancé Steve 2 weeks after my 30th birthday. I had begun to doubt that I might ever meet the one, and then suddenly there he was, right in front of me. He is the most wonderful partner I could ever imagine, and I love him with all my heart. We have been together for almost four amazing years, through thick and thin, and I hope that other couples, same-sex and opposite sex, have relationships as good as ours.

Steve and I got engaged over two years ago. At some point in the next year or two, we will have our wedding. Obviously, we are both looking forward to the celebration that entails. We have delayed naming the date in the hope that we might be able to do so in Australia, depending on what happens in federal parliament later this year. If marriage equality is passed, then we will be able to have around 100 of our nearest and dearest present with us for our special day.

But, in the event the legislation fails, then we do not see any way that it will be passed in the next five years (at least – and more likely 10). We would obviously not wait for the next Bill, and be engaged for potentially close to a decade, if not longer, but would be forced instead to go overseas and get married in a different country. While some people may think that this is romantic or an adventure, I think that it is profoundly disappointing.

It would mean that many of our friends, and at least some of our family members, will not be able to be there with us (whether that be because they have small children, it costs too much, they cannot take time off work, it is too far etc). Because Steve and I are a ‘normal’ engaged couple – in the sense that we both plan on only having one wedding in our lifetimes – this means that parliamentarians who vote no on marriage equality this year are effectively taking those people away from our ceremony, limiting the amount of people who can be there for our wedding day. I am acutely aware that those lost memories will never, ever be given back.

I hope that this is something which parliamentarians who are considering voting no think about before they cast their vote later this year. In fact, I would welcome the opportunity to be able to discuss the issue of marriage equality, face to face, because I am confident in the power of the arguments for, and in the weakness of the arguments against. However, given I will likely not be able to speak directly with those parliamentarians before the Bill, I would like to conclude my submission with a personal message, and a series of questions, just to them.

A message to the parliamentarians considering voting against marriage equality

To those MPs and Senators who are considering voting against legislation which would introduce marriage equality, I would like to make the following points:

  • Of all the bills which you will vote on in your entire parliamentary career, there will always be a group of people in the community who will judge you according to this particular vote, and whether you stood up for equality and love, or for discrimination and prejudice.
  • If you do not appreciate the characterisation of the issue in that way, then I am sorry, but you are going to have to get used to it. This vote is that simple – either you vote for equality or against, either you believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians are first-class citizens, or you think they are inherently second-class.
  • Further, if you vote no on marriage equality, then please do not ever again say that you stand up for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians, or believe that they deserve equal rights. If you do so, we will rightly point out your hypocrisy.
  • Down the track, if your views change and you come to regret your vote, then please do not say that you did not understand what you were doing at the time – the arguments have all been made, and you must be aware by now of the consequences of your actions.

And finally, I would like to leave you with the following questions to contemplate before you vote no:

  1. Have you told all of your gay and lesbian colleagues, staff, friends and family members that you think they are second-class citizens and deserve less legal rights than you?
  2. Have you considered how you are likely to reflect upon this vote in 20 years’ time – will you be proud of your actions in parliament, or will you try and disown them?
  3. Are you comfortable being remembered as someone who stood against the tide of progress, in the same way that we now consider someone who supported apartheid, or who supports discrimination against women or indigenous people?
  4. Will party allegiance or political considerations be enough to make you feel better for having voted against the human rights of your fellow citizens?
  5. Given we all know that marriage equality will eventually be achieved, at some point in the next two decades, what will voting against it this year actually achieve, other than simply delaying the inevitable?
  6. What would you say to an elderly lesbian, whose partner dies between now and when equal marriage is ultimately legalised, but who was never able to legally marry the person they love, at least in part because of your actions?
  7. How would you explain your vote to a mother or father, who simply wants to celebrate their gay son’s wedding, in exactly the same way they have celebrated the wedding of their heterosexual son and/or daughter?
  8. What message do you want to send to a same-sex attracted youth , growing up in a country town and having trouble accepting their sexuality in a society which does not value them as much as their straight peers?
  9. How will you feel, waking up the day after the vote, knowing that your actions have helped to break gay and lesbian hearts rights across the country?
  10. Finally, and most importantly, if you had a gay child or grandchild (or your best friend had a gay child or grandchild) could you honestly explain to them why you thought you were better than them, and that you deserved to have a legal right that they did not, just because you were straight and they were not?

New Zealand Marriage Equality Submission

The following is my submission to the New Zealand Parliamentary Inquiry into their marriage equality legislation. I think that it is a fantastic initiative of their parliament to allow submissions from Australia, and I hope that they pass equality later this year or early next year, even if it casts an even larger shadow over the performance of our parliamentarians on this issue.

new_zealand_flag

First, as a citizen of Australia I would like to thank the Parliament of New Zealand for allowing people from across the Tasman to make a submission to your inquiry on the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill 2012.

This is an important inquiry on legislation which has the ability to affect a wide range of people, not just in New Zealand, but also from other countries in the region.

I am one of those people who could potentially be affected. I am a 34 year old gay man living in Sydney with my partner of more than four years, Steven. We have been engaged to be married for almost three of those four years (I proposed to him at the beginning of 2010, and to my eternal happiness he said yes).

However, as you would be aware, the Parliament of Australia voted in 2004 to ban same-sex and gender diverse marriages, and extended this ban to apply to couples wishing to get married in other countries (by deciding not to issue certificates of no impediment to same-sex and gender diverse couples).

Even worse, as I am sure you are also aware, the Australian Parliament recently voted to reconfirm its opposition to marriage equality, and did so by a large margin (98 to 42 in the House of Representatives), meaning that marriage equality is unlikely to be recognised within Australia (at least at the federal level) for the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, there was a brighter moment early in 2012 when the Australian Attorney-General, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP, overturned the previous ban on the issuing of certificates of no impediment. This means that, despite being denied the right to marry in our own country, there is now no legal obstacle to our getting married in those countries where it is legal.

But there are other obstacles. While we can choose to get married in a range of countries, they are all some distance from Australia. This means that any option to get married for Steven and I would be expensive. Much more importantly, it means that any option to get married overseas would likely to be too far and too expensive for most of our family members and friends to come along with us and be there for our special day. And we both have elderly grandmothers for whom travelling to Europe, North America, South America or South Africa would be out of the question.

For Steven and I, and countless other couples like us in Australia, this is a heartbreaking decision. We can either legally get married in another country, but do so in the absence of the special people in our lives, or choose to wait many years before we can get married in our own country, and risk people like our grandmothers no longer being with us.

The legislation which is currently being considered by your Parliament might provide an opportunity for couples like us to be able to travel to our neighbour, and get married with many more of the special people in our lives being able to join us. I believe that many couples would make the same decision that we would – if marriage equality were to be legalised in New Zealand, and available to citizens of Australia, we would seek to get married in your country.

Some people might try to make an economic or financial argument based on this fact (ie that same-sex and gender diverse marriages from across the Tasman would provide a windfall to New Zealand). I do not support this proposition because fundamental human rights should never be determined by whether a nation benefits from it financially.

However, I do make the argument that, by legislating for marriage equality, and allowing same-sex and gender diverse couples within New Zealand, and from around the region including Australia, to get married, you would be substantially increasing human happiness. There are few moments where politicians have the opportunity to do that so decisively – by voting yes, you would not just bring happiness to the couples getting married but also to the family members and friends who finally get to celebrate that fact.

This submission may seem somewhat self-interested – after all I am putting forward my case as to why I should be able to access a legal right in your country. But it is also selfless in the same way that true love can be. Because I don’t just want to get married for my own benefit – I want to marry my fiancé Steven because I know that it would make him happy, and that our wedding would also bring happiness to countless others.

That makes me no different to any heterosexual person who wishes to get married, and no different to the same-sex and gender diverse couples within New Zealand who also wish to have a legally recognised wedding.

Obviously, your primary duty as elected representatives of New Zealand is to represent them. And I am sure that LGBTI New Zealanders are making the necessary arguments to you based on love, equality, acceptance and respect which all support the introduction of a definition of marriage that does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or sex and gender identity.

If you accept those arguments and vote yes, you will no doubt bring happiness and joy to same-sex and gender diverse couples within New Zealand who wish to get married, and to all LGBTI New Zealanders for being recognised as full citizens.

What this submission has tried to make clear is that the positive outcome of a yes vote is not restricted to New Zealand and its citizens – the benefits of supporting this legislation could extend to couples from other countries, including Australia like Steven and me, who may also be able to get married as a result.

And who knows, just like with giving women the right to vote in 1893, a first move by New Zealand on this legislation might be enough to convince Australia’s own parliamentarians to finally vote for marriage equality.

Update: New Zealand passed marriage equality in April 2013, with weddings set to commence from August. What a wonderful achievement from our cousins across the Tasman, and what an indictment on Australia’s politicians that we do not appear even close to passing similar legislation here. Anyway, possibly the best moment of the NZ marriage equality debate happened immediately after the Bills were passed, with the Gallery breaking out into a traditional Maori love song. Simply beautiful:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilMBLV3A6ug

139 People Standing Against the Tide of History

First, a disclaimer: this is hardly an original column. There have been many other bloggers and social media users who have posted the full list of our federal parliamentarians who recently rejected equal marriage. One particular website which is impressive in both its comprehensiveness and usefulness is ‘the98against’ (for those Members of the House of Representatives who voted no) and its corresponding Senate site (‘the41against’), which also helpfully provides the contact details of each MP.

Nevertheless, I think it is important for us to document – in as many places as possible, and as loudly as possible – the names of each and every Australian parliamentarian who decided that only opposite-sex couples should have the legal right to marry in this country. These 139 people decided that there are some rights which should only be granted to heterosexuals, and to entrench this homophobic distinction in our nation’s laws for several more years (at least).

The majority of the list is made up of Coalition MPs. In fact, every Coalition MP who voted cast their vote against equality and for discrimination. This is in part the direct result of Opposition Leader (the not very honourable) Tony Abbott’s decision to deny Liberal and National MPs a conscience vote. However, it is also partly a consequence of the gradual decline and death of the moderate wing of the Liberal Party, and the failure of Coalition MPs to exhibit any evidence of a spine by voting for equality anyway (despite constantly reminding others that they are free to cross the floor on any vote).

Indeed, only one Coalition MP deserves any kind of pass mark – and their name is not Malcolm Turnbull. Liberal Senator for Queensland Sue Boyce gave a principled and dignified speech in favour of equality and then abstained from the final vote (one assumes to preserve any kind of future within the now-quite-illiberal Liberal Party).

Malcolm, on the other hand, cast his vote against equality, just like Tony Abbott and Cory Bernardi. In the one place where it counted – on the floor of parliament – there was nothing to distinguish Malcolm from Cory; and that is something which the electors of Wentworth should keep in mind at the ballot box next year.

In fact, the list below shows a range of people who have voted against equality despite having a high number of LGBTI Australians living in their electorates. This includes Teresa Gambarro in Brisbane, Kevin Rudd in Griffith, Jane Prentice in Ryan, Turnbull, John Murphy in Reid, Kelvin Thomson in Wills, Michael Danby in Melbourne Ports and Kelly O’Dwyer in Higgins. They should all fear repercussions from progressive voters come next year (although how much they suffer remains up to us).

Of course, the list below includes a number of ALP parliamentarians, who chose to exercise their ‘conscience’ vote and reject the ALP’s official platform, which, as of last year’s national conference, actually supports same-sex marriage. It includes a range of people who really should know better – as well as Thomson and Danby, I would add to that list Julie Owens, Daryl Melham and Anna Burke.

And then there is the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. After foxing for months on the subject – and giving the impression to marriage equality supporters that he would vote yes – Kevin disgracefully voted to entrench inequality in federal law. Thus he amply demonstrated that he has not grown during his time on the backbench, and those people who are looking to the future of the ALP should no longer cast their eyes in his oh-so-eager, ‘please pick me’direction.

Rudd’s cowardice, on top of Julia Gillard’s ongoing capitulation to the Christian Right, has cast the spotlight on those ALP MPs who are thinking about the future, and what a ‘no vote’ would have looked like on their record in 2, 5 or even 10 years from now (a hint: it is the equivalent of someone saying today that they continue to support discrimination against Aborigines).

Stephen Smith voted yes, possibly for this reason, as did Jason Clare. Bill Shorten’s vote was the most encouraging – he is a political pragmatist of the highest order and a (well-known) self-promoter. It speaks volumes that he knows which way the wind is blowing. By being clever on this issue, Shorten has confirmed his place near the front of the queue of who should lead the party when we eventually get rid of Gillard (Greg Combet would also have to be on that list simply because of his general awesomeness, while Mark Butler is a longer-term consideration).

In fact, in the medium term this vote will be able to be used by a weapon by an astute future Labor leader against the Liberals. Whenever a matter of social policy or social justice arises in 2017, or 2023, the ALP head will be able to point to Joe Hockey, or Josh Frydenburg, or any MP who is currently in Parliament, and point to this vote to show how regressive they truly are. It is definitely something to store away for a rainy day.

In the meantime, those of us who simply want the right to get married in our own country will have to wait. And the size of the loss – 98 to 42 in the House of Reps – means that wait may be quite long. Contrary to popular opinion, while the tide will continue to move in our direction, the fact that people are now on record for and against (well, overwhelmingly against), means that it necessarily will take a public about-face for those MPs to support equality in the future. Saying that they got something wrong is not intrinsic to the nature of most politicians.

Even if the Liberals will have the excuse that they were denied a conscience vote this time, their recorded vote against will nevertheless be a factor in considering where to cast their ballot next time around. And the disturbingly high number of ALP MPs who voted no, despite being free to vote yes, demonstrates that there is still significant work to be done on the left side of politics as well.

In fact, the scale of this defeat, especially in the House of Representatives, has done nothing more than confirm to me the likelihood that it will take at least a couple of federal elections, and possibly three, for there to be sufficient turnover such that a future federal parliament is in the position to support marriage equality. No wonder the AME and other marriage activists have transferred their attention to securing same-sex marriage at state and territory level. For the foreseeable future, that is likely to be much more fertile ground.

 

House of Representatives Members who voted no:

Abbott, AJ Adams, DGH
Alexander, JG Andrews, KJ
Andrews, KL Baldwin, RC
Billson, BF Bishop, BK
Bishop, JI Bowen, CE
Bradbury, DJ Briggs, JE
Broadbent, RE Buchholz, S
Burke, AS Byrne, AM
Chester, D Christensen, GR
Ciobo, SM Cobb, JK
Coulton, M Crook, AJ
D’Ath, YM Dutton, PC
Emerson, CA Entsch, WG
Fitzgibbon, JA Fletcher, PW
Forrest, JA Frydenberg, JA
Gambaro, T Gash, J
Gillard, JE Griggs, NL
Hartsuyker, L Hawke, AG
Hayes, CP Hockey, JB
Hunt, GA Husic, EN
Irons, SJ Jensen, DG
Jones, ET Katter, RC
Keenan, M Kelly, C
Laming, A Ley, SP
Lyons, GR Macfarlane, IE
Marino, NB Markus, LE
Matheson, RG McClelland, RB
McCormack, MF Melham, D
Mirabella, S Morrison, SJ
Moylan, JE Murphy, JP
Neumann, SK Neville, PC
O’Dowd, KD O’Dwyer, KM
O’Neill, DM Owens, J
Prentice, J Pyne, CM
Ramsey, RE Randall, DJ
Ripoll, BF Robb, AJ
Robert, SR Rowland, MA
Roy, WB Rudd, KM
Ruddock, PM Schultz, AJ
Scott, BC Secker, PD (teller)
Smith, ADH Somlyay, AM
Southcott, AJ Stone, SN
Swan, WM Symon, MS
Tehan, DT Thomson, KJ
Truss, WE Tudge, AE
Turnbull, MB Vamvakinou, M
Van Manen, AJ Vasta, RX
Washer, MJ Windsor, AHC
Wyatt, KG Zappia, A

Senators who voted no:

Abetz, E Back, CJ
Bilyk, CL Bishop, TM
Boswell, RLD Bushby, DC
Cash, MC Colbeck, R
Collins, JMA Conroy, SM
Cormann, M Edwards, S
Eggleston, A Farrell, D
Fawcett, DJ Fierravanti-Wells, C
Fifield, MP Furner, ML
Gallacher, AM Heffernan, W
Hogg, JJ Humphries, G
Johnston, D Joyce, B
Kroger, H Macdonald, ID
Madigan, JJ Mason, B
McKenzie, B Nash, F
Parry, S Payne, MA
Polley, H Ronaldson, M
Ryan, SM Scullion, NG
Sinodinos, A Smith, D
Stephens, U Sterle, G
Williams, JR