NSW in race towards marriage equality
It’s well and truly now a race to the altar to see which state or territory will become the first to have equal marriage laws after a cross parliamentary group of MPs in NSW gave notice yesterday of their intentions to introduce a marriage equality bill by early next year.
The State Marriage Equality Bill will be introduced separately in the Upper House by all three Legislative Council members of the working group – the Nationals Trevor Khan, Labor’s Penny Sharpe and Cate Faehrmann from The Greens – with the trio saying in a joint statement that it would provide for the “best starting point”.
The cross parliamentary group also includes newly elected Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich and Coogee Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith, who both sit in the Parliament’s Lower House.
It is thought the bill is more likely to receive a majority of support in the Upper House where a motion in late May in support of marriage equality passed by 22-16 votes.
Both Premier Barry O’Farrell and Opposition Leader John Robertson have previously confirmed they will allow a conscience vote for their respective team of MPs in both houses of Parliament.
Faehrmann said it was now only a matter of time before marriage equality was a reality.
“The cooperative approach being taken here in NSW really shows up Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard for their recalcitrance on marriage equality,” she said.
“It's time Parliaments caught up with the vast majority of Australians who believe everyone should have the right to marry the person they love.”
Greenwich said there were huge benefits for NSW to become the first jurisdiction in Australia to have equal marriage laws.
“The international example, and recent studies, show NSW would benefit to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars in wedding and tourism related revenue if we are the first state to walk down the equality aisle,” he said.
Marriage equality advocates have welcomed the announcement as well as the cooperation by members of all three major parties in working on the bill together.
“With this important step forward, NSW MPs have reinforced their commitment to marriage equality,” Australian Marriage Equality national convener, Rodney Croome, said.
“We are particularly pleased to see continued cross-party support for marriage equality in NSW because it sends a message to the rest of the nation that the issue transcends party allegiances.”
Similar legislation has already been introduced in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria and has also recently been flagged in the ACT and Western Australia.
Though the Marriage Act is a federal law, when it was introduced in 1961 marriage became a federal power held concurrently with the states under Section 51 of the constitution.
Constitutional expert Professor George Williams, from the University of NSW, and others have suggested states could pass their own laws on same-sex marriage due to changes by former Prime Minister John Howard to the federal Marriage Act in 2004 to exclude same-sex couples.
“I acknowledge that there is legal uncertainty but there are many important things in this nation that never would of happened if we were stopped by that and if the numbers are there the legislation should be enacted and properly tested in the High Court,” Williams told SX recently.
“The constitution grants the Federal Parliament a concurrent, rather than exclusive, power to make marriage laws. As with other areas such as taxation, this means that the states also retain power in the area.”
Howard yesterday reiterated his opposition to same-sex marriage at a function for Lifeline in Sydney alongside former Prime Minister Bob Hawke.
“No, no I haven’t changed my mind on that, no,” Howard told the audience. “I haven’t changed my mind at all. Haven’t my changed my mind.”
Hawke for his part said he supported the reform.
“I feel very deeply on all issues of discrimination, and in this area of sexual discrimination it just needs to be said straight-forwardly – you can be born with curly hair, you can be born with this gene-disposition towards homosexuality,” he said.
A forum to discuss the future of the marriage equality campaign will take place at the Beresford Hotel, Surry Hills from 3.30pm this Sunday (November 25) following the weekend’s latest rally for equal marriage rights.
- Tags: Alex Greenwich, Bob Hawke, Bruce Notley-Smith, Cate Faehrmann, Coalition, Constitution, George Williams, Greens, John Howard, Labor, Law, Legislation, Liberal Party, Marriage Act, Marriage Equality, NSW Parliament, Penny Sharpe, Politics, Same-Sex Marriage, State Marriage Equality Bill, States, SX, Upper House