SA: Our state of marriage
ADELAIDE: Pressure is mounting from all angles on the Prime Minister to reconsider her opposition to same-sex marriage, and South Australia along with Tasmania are leading the way.
In South Australia, both major parties have agreed to grant a conscience vote and at the recent Equal Love rally Premier Jay Weatherill announced the he would support the Greens’ marriage equality bill should it come before the Lower House.
“It’s a simple question of the dignity of the individual. People should be entitled to express their own identity any way they wish and the law shouldn’t become a barrier to prevent them from doing that,” he stated.
“That’s why I support the legislation to provide for marriage equality and that’s why I’m at the rally indicating my support. It’s a conscience vote for the Australian Labor Party … certainly there are a number of Labor members who are supportive of the legislation.
“I think that’s a natural human right, it’s something that we shouldn’t interfere with and I think the broader community supports that idea. This is a decision that we took with the ALP national conference to support marriage equality, so at the same time though it said that it was for the individual conscience of each MP … but the matter of principle has been served by the Australian Labor Party, we believe in marriage equality.”
Weatherill’s move to support marriage equality is in line with other Labor Premiers including Tasmania’s Lara Giddings but has now placed him at odds with Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
“So any member of the party is entitled to express their own view; they’re not bound by the party position in relation to this matter,” Weatherill said.
“South Australia has had a history of being progressive and allowing people expressing themselves, to be all they want to be in the world, and to have their relationships recognised in this way I think is just part of tradition which has had a long history in South Australia.”
Public support for marriage equality from inside South Australia’s Labor party has been occurring for some time now but never before from the Premier. Backbencher Steph Key has been pushing for equal opportunity laws for the past 30 years.
“Part of the agenda certainly in previous parliaments was looking at the same rights for same-sex couples but unfortunately that ended being the domestic partnership legislation; but I guess the positive thing about that was that people recognise that same-sex couples should have the same rights,” Key recollected.
“For me same-sex marriage is definitely on the agenda and I think it is about time the South Australian Parliament debated the issue and also the next area will be parenting rights.
“Recognising that same-sex couples should be able to adopt like anyone else, we need to fix up the administration in regards to what is on a certificate that identifies not only biological parents but also people who have taken the responsibility of being parents. I see that as an administration issue that we should be able to sort out.”
In South Australia support for same-sex marriage is higher than any other state with 67 per cent of South Australians supporting marriage equality. Of course there are still those who publicly oppose any move to extend marriage laws to include same-sex couples, and while current Leader of the Opposition Isobel Redmond has stated she has “no problem” with same sex marriage, former leader Martin Hamilton-Smith sits amongst the staunch opposition.
“I do have the view that marriage is between a man and a woman. I’m fully supportive of and have voted for an array of legislation to extend to same-sex couples a lot of the practical benefits they need,” he said.
“I appreciate that their relationships are genuinely in long-term relationships and they bear many similarities to marriage. I fully accept that, but on the question of children rather than property my personal view is that it’s best to have laws to provide for a mother and a father to be there during the child’s birth and after.
“I similarly wasn’t opposed to some earlier legislation we passed which extended a lot of practical property and financial benefits to same-sex relationships as exist for marriage, because it seems to me that same-sex couples need and deserve the protection of the law in regard to all of those property issues but with children I think there is an additional consideration.”
Despite differences in opinions when it comes to voting on same-sex marriage legislation there is one thing that most MPs seem to be agreeing on: the conscience vote.
“I am very pleased that it is a conscience vote as well on both sides, because I think that gives this issue the best chance of an honest and proper airing and I would not be surprised if the measure passes and if it does, well, that would be the decision of the parliament,” Hamilton-Smith said.