Same sex marriage: is Australia ready to accept it?

by Peter Magee on September 27, 2011

Last year Parliament approved a Greens motion for MPs to consult their constituents about their views on same sex marriage.  It was a motion that was put on the basis that if MP’s were to consult the public on this issue it was believed that there would be wide spread public support for same sex marriage.  The motion was also criticised as being cheeky in that on its face as it did not seek to change the law, but was intended to be a mechanism to get the ball rolling for a change in the law once ‘the people’ were consulted.

On 24 August 30 MPs gathered to debate the results of their consultation with their constituents and the results indicate that we are a long way from having community acceptance that the law should be changed to allow same sex marriage.  I must admit that I was surprised by the results.

Of the 30 MPs who took part in the debate, only five said that they would like same sex couples to be allowed to marry, and one other reported community support for the change to the Marriage Act.  There was far more significant support for same sex relationships to be legally recognised as a civil union in some way.  Five of the 30 MP’s either did not express a view or said they hadn’t made up their mind.

The consultation process undertaken by most MPs was acknowledged to be unscientific and not necessarily representative in its sample, so arguably the results may be unreliable.

An example of the results of consultation were those reported by independent MP, Rob Oakeshott.  He was one of the MPs didn’t express a view.  He did say that there were extreme views on both sides and it was clear to him that there was not a consensus on what the Government’s role in marriage should be.  He went on to say “In my community it is roughly split on the ground and is anecdotal.  About two are strongly opposed out of five, about two are indifferent and about one is strongly in favour.”

By far the most extreme view reported was from the Member for Hinkler, Paul Nevell.  He said “Our local results showed 14 people living in Hinkler supported same sex marriage, while 595 were against it… Along with this, 232 constituents signed an open letter to the Prime Minister protesting any move towards same sex marriage.  This is the most difinitive response to an issue I have ever seen in all my years representing the people of Hinkler, and it sends a clear signal that the vast majority of local residents do not support the idea of same sex marriage.”

It would appear that the issue has a long way to go before any change in the law to allow same sex marriage.  The concept of legal recognition in same sex unions appears to be a far more achievable objective at this stage.  How far the issue is carried will for some time, remain in the hands of those who are currently indifferent.

If you are involved in a same sex relationship and are need in legal of assistance, please do not hesitate to call us and speak with one of our solicitors for advice about your situation.

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