NSW to vote on state-based marriage equality
A state-based marriage equality bill will be introduced in NSW Parliament later this year by a cross-party group of MPs.
Marriage equality advocates have welcomed the move with Premier Barry O’Farrell and Labor Opposition Leader John Robertson already having confirmed they will allow a conscience vote for their team of MPs.
The announcement comes as two marriage equality bills in both houses of federal Parliament look set to be voted down this week.
The bill follows in the wake of similar state-based marriage legislation allowing for same-sex marriage introduced in Tasmania, South Australia, ACT and Western Australia.
The make-up of the bill will be worked on by the Liberal MP for Coogee, Bruce Notley-Smith and upper house members; Labor’s Penny Sharpe, Nationals MLC Trevor Khan and Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann.
In a joint statement the group said they would prefer a federal marriage equality bill but it seemed unlikely to occur this year.
“We believe that the best result that would deliver marriage equality would be for the Federal Parliament to pass one of the bills currently before it, however we recognise that that this may not be achieved the first time,” the statement reads.
“If the bills in the Federal Parliament are not successful we will follow ... Tasmania, South Australia, the ACT and Western Australia in pursuing state based marriage equality.”
Notley-Smith, who is the first openly gay male MP in NSW Parliament’s lower house, said marriage equality was a reform that also had plenty of support within conservative quarters.
“Marriage is a conservative institution. I think that stable, committed, loving relationships are what Liberals believe in and I think this is a logical extension of that,” he said.
“I’ve been in a relationship with the same person for 21 years and I feel I should have the right to have my relationship acknowledged and recognised, just as those of my brothers have been.”
Faehrmann said the establishment of a multi-party working group would make equal marriage rights for all people in the state inevitable.
“We have overwhelming public support, and now we have MPs from all other parties joining with the Greens in supporting this long overdue reform,” she said.
“I have always said that I will move for state based marriage equality if the Commonwealth fails to act, and with defeat likely in the Senate, it’s time to move in NSW.”
Independent Sydney MP Clover Moore has also given her backing to the bill but with her forced departure from Parliament this week, it is expected her likely successor for the seat, Australian Marriage Equality national convener, Alex Greenwich, will take up the reform.
Responding to the announcement, Greenwich said NSW was the state or territory with more same-sex couples than any other in Australia.
“We hope this move also sends a message to our federal parliamentarians, that reform is best achieved when all parties work together,” he said.
“This strong political cooperation and determination will help deliver equality to NSW.”
NSW Rainbow Labor co-convenors Ashley Ubrihien and Cathy Brown said the announcement was positive news for GLTBI people and their families in NSW.
“While ultimately GLTBI people and their families would like the federal parliament to support marriage equality, NSW marriage equality legislation would give us a chance to exchange vows under NSW law,” Ubrihien said.
A spokesperson for O’Farrell informed SX late last month he was actually surprised no MP had yet brought forward legislation on the issue.
“The Premier stands by his past practice of allowing conscience votes on legislation in areas like this,” the spokesperson added.
O’Farrell’s readiness to offer a conscience vote stands in stark contrast to federal Coalition Leader Tony Abbott who today again refused to entertain the notion of giving federal MPs a free vote on marriage equality.
“Premier O’Farrell respects the Liberal tradition of granting free votes on such issues,” Greenwich said.
“It’s time Tony Abbott allowed his federal Liberal members the opportunity to join the majority of Australians and support a reform that will strengthen couples, families and communities.”