Marriage in ACT: Brandis Moves to Strike It Down, AME Shoots Back

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The Royal Wedding of Prince William & Prince Adam, by Surian Soosay

A Gender Agenda (AGA) issued a press release today noting this mornings introduction of the Marriage Equality Bill into the ACT Legislative Assembly, as the Federal government began moves to overturn it.

The AGA recognises that the Bill is an important milestone for the gay, lesbian and bisexual community, but it also highlights the slow progress on reforms that were promised to the intersex, transgender and gender diverse community back in 2003.

Executive Director of AGA, Peter Hyndal, said

“the intersex and gender diverse population in Canberra still experiences exceptionally high rates of discrimination, unemployment and social marginalisation, as well as poor health outcomes and low rates of engagement with mainstream support services. These are issues that have a profoundly negative affect on people’s lives and need urgent attention at both an ACT and Commonwealth level.”

The ACT Births Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1997 still requires a person to undergo surgical sterilisation before they can change the record of their sex.

The ACT Government says it supports legislation to improve the situation of sex and gender diverse people, but has so far failed to act.

Further, on the issue of marriage, Mr Hyndal said that in the absence of specific inclusion in todays Bill,

“intersex and gender diverse people may be unable to marry in either the Commonwealth or the ACT, meaning that claims of achieving ‘marriage equality’ are
misleading”.

The ACT Bill is carefully drafted to make sure it doesn’t impinge on the federal law by suggesting that any kind of woman might marry any kind of man.  Hence the exclusion of trangender people, and intersex people (whose gender cannot be determined).

There is no residency requirement, meaning that any same-sex couple will be able to marry there, but their marriages will not be recognised outside the ACT or federally, except in Tasmania. Which begs the question: if marriage equality is all about being treated exactly the same regardless of sex or gender, what do we call this? It’s clearly not “Marriage Equality”. “Marriage Segregation”, perhaps?

What ever it is, it’s likely to be short-lived. PM Tony Abbott and Attorney General George Brandis are already seeking legal advice with a view to challenging the legislation.

Previous attempts by the territory to legislate high-end civil unions similar to marriage have been overturned by the federal government, but that’s no longer as simple as it was.

In the past, all it took was advice from the PM to the Governor General to reject the bill. Now it will require a vote in both houses of parliament to shoot it down. That’s not likely with the current senate, but when the new one comes in in July, prepare for fireworks. Already, Australian Marriage Equality is putting a shot across the governments bows with a petition asking them to keep their hands of the Territory legislation: Click here to see it and sign it.

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)