Although it had been thought debate was exhausted on the Jones (ALP) marriage bill further debate has taken place since the return of parliament in August after the winter break. It has been reported it will be voted on in the week beginning 17 September. The Bandt/Wilkie bill, the other bill before the House of Representatives, has not yet been debated.
In the senate, debate on the bill moved by Greens’ Senator Sarah Hanson-Young only began on 23 August and a second bill was moved that same day by ALP senators Louise Pratt (WA), Trish Crossin (NT), Gavin Marshall (Victoria)and Carol Brown(Tasmania). This makes four marriage bills before the federal parliament.
The pro same-sex marriage lobby would want to have legislation passed at the federal level before the federal election next year which may see the Labor/Green alliance out of power. The debate is dragging on and their media campaign continues.
They held rallies in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney on 11 August, the Saturday before National Marriage Day in Canberra on 14 August. In Perth on 5 September “dozens” of same-sex marriage protestors gathered outside a lecture theatre at Curtain University where Prime Minister Julia Gillard was to open a new biosciences research precinct. They chanted for PM Gillard to back marriage equality.
The federal push has also been augmented by state moves to legislate same-sex marriage (see below). Senator Hanson-Young commented on the Tasmanian bill that it put the federal Labor and Coalition leaders to shame –“If this reform continues to be blocked by the old parties at a federal level, the states and territories will take the lead and do what they know is right.”
All of this will contribute to wearing down opposition, despite the fact a state same-sex marriage law would raise serious constitutional questions which would be a matter for the High Court to decide.
A same-sex marriage bill co-sponsored by Labor Premier Lara Giddings and Greens leader Nick McKim passed the Tasmanian lower house 13 votes to 11 on August 31. All Labor members except Michael Polley voted for the bill. All Liberal members voted against. The fate of the bill when debated in the upper house in late September is less certain as 13 of the 15 members are independent. Upper House members need to be lobbied urgently to vote to preserve marriage as between one man and one woman.
Greens’ MP Tammy Franks moved a same-sex marriage bill in March, 2012. On 11 August at the same-sex marriage rally before parliament SA Labor Premier Jay Weatherill announced that he will support the Greens’ bill. Ms Franks then said she will bring a vote on the issue to the Upper House in the next session of parliament.
On 6 June Greens MP Sue Pennicuik (Upper House member, Southern Metro) introduced a same-sex marriage bill into the Victorian parliament. Premier Ted Baillieu said on ABC radio 774 on 6 August that marriage is a “matter for the Commonwealth” and that he had made his views on same-sex marriage known when he became Opposition leader and that nothing has changed that view. Mr Baillieu told the ACL before the Victorian election in November 2010 that the Liberal party is opposed to same-sex marriage and is of the view it is a federal matter. Ms Pennicuik, in moving her bill, pointed out its similarities to the South Australian and Tasmanian bills and said that “It is preferable that marriage equality be achieved at the federal level ….. However if this is not achieved there is always the option of introducing laws in the states …to allow specifically for same-sex marriage.”