O/S Marriage Recognition Fails, SA Marriage Bill Introduced, Will Independents Save Discrimination Act?

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F# A# Jimfinity

A bit of a dogs breakfast, in the dog days of this scrappy Parliament. As the government slowly dies, so do our prospects for any significant LGBTI friendly reforms.

UPDATE: The Sex Discrimination Amendment Bill passed the Senate with the amendments protecting LGBTI seniors from discrimination intact. The Coalition now oppose the whole bill: now it’s up to the independents – see below.

It was too much to hope that the recognition of foreign marriage bill would get up, and it didn’t, but not before some fine speeches in its favour, and some pretty vile ones against.

Senator Madigan, of the Santamaria’s Rump Party, aka DLP, was so fed up with having to trot out his quasi-Christian claptrap yet again that he proposed ending the debate once and for all. He promised to introduce legislation later today for a binding referendum to amend the constitution to enshrine man/woman marriage.

Other coalition speakers were also pissy about being asked to vote on marriage equality yet again, especially when they had so much really important stuff they’d rather be debating, but retiring Senator for Queensland Sue Boyce crossed the floor in support. She called Madigan’s referendum bid “appalling and disgusting.”

Several Labour members went the other way to ensure the bill’s defeat, including Stephen Conroy, Joe Ludwig and David Feeney, so you can cross them off your Christmas list, too. Note to Australian Marriage Equality – here are three to oppose.

On the other hand our women did well, with Senators Hanson-Young, Pratt and Wong standing proud.

Yesterday the South Australian upper house passed a motion congratulating New Zealand on its marriage equality laws. Today, Labour MP Susan Close, whose brother is gay, introduced a same-sex marriage bill in the Legislative Assembly.

I had an idea Greens MP Tammy Franks had a state marriage bill ready to go, but frankly, I don’t care who introduces these things, since I don’t see them doing much good, or standing for long. Sadly, these are the crumbs we are reduced to fighting over in these diminished times.

Back in Federal parliament the Sex Discrimination Act is still stuck. The Coalition reneged on their agreement to support it when the government introduced the amendment removing the religious exemptions in respect of age care – something I raised with Mark Dreyfus at a recent community cabinet. It was unaccountably omitted from the bill when it was introduced in the lower house.

Word is that the coalition were prepared to let amendment through, but Senator Gary Humphries, scourge of Muslims, friend of the Australian Christian Lobby, and keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast, blindsided everyone (including his own leader) by writing a minority report opposing the amendment, and railroaded the coalition members of the committee into supporting it.

Shadow AG George Brandis was left with no choice but to back the renegade. The Coalition will now vote against the whole bill unless the amendment is dropped.

The government now has three choices

  • drop the bill altogether
  • drop the amendment removing religious exemptions in age care
  • try and get the bill through with the support of the independents

I’ve already written to the independents asking for their support. I quite understand that you’re probably fed up to the back teeth with signing petitions and sending emails to such little apparent effect. Still, we must keep hammering on the doors.

Will you write to Rob OakeshottTony WindsorAndrew WilkieCraig Thomson & Peter Slipper and ask them to support the whole bill, including the amendment?

Crumbs indeed! But as is likely to be little else for the forseeable future, we’d better grab what we can while we still can.

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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)