Cabinet reshuffle sees new Attorney-General Nicola Roxon wanting marriage equality
Marriage advocates and others have welcomed an apparent change of heart by new Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, after the country’s first female Attorney-General revealed in a newspaper interview today that she now supports marriage equality.
Roxon’s appointment was made yesterday following Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s decision to reshuffle her front bench, which also included installing Mental Health and Ageing Minister Mark Butler into federal Cabinet and promoting Tanya Plibersek to Health Minister.
In an interview with The Australian, Roxon (pictured) confirmed that she would like to see Australia’s anti-discrimination laws “freshened up” while also revealing her newfound support for marriage equality.
“The government has an ambitious program and I don't think the time has come yet, but it may well come during my tenure,” Roxon said.
In 2004, Roxon was widely criticised for addressing a ‘Why marriage matters’ forum organised by the Australian Christian Lobby, Australian Family Association and the Fatherhood Foundation.
During that meeting she declared to about 1000 people that “the major parties do not support gay marriage” and that Labor had “no intention now ... or after the election of advocating for gay marriage”.
Australian Marriage Equality convener Alex Greenwich said that Roxon’s change of mind on the issue since 2004 was reflective of how many other people now also support marriage equality.
“Nicola Roxon has engaged the electorate on this issue and like most Australians has changed her mind to support equality. She understands that this is a clear area of discrimination that impacts couples, families, and communities across Australia,” Greenwich said.
“In her new role as Attorney-General we are hopeful she will have the historic opportunity to put into law Labor's marriage equality policy and the wishes of a clear majority of Australians.”
Gina Wilson, chairperson of Organisation Intersex International (OII) Australia, also urged Roxon to put human rights and social inclusion for disadvantaged social minorities as a priority in her new portfolio.
“Though marriage equality is not top of the list of human rights needs for Intersex it is significant bell wether,” Wilson told SX.
“Passage of any legislation that extends rights to intersex will always reduce the stigma we are subjected to and improve our lives in terms of our mental health, our self-esteem and feelings of social inclusion.”
Both Greenwich and Wilson acknowledged the support outgoing Attorney-General Robert McClelland has shown for LGBTI rights, pointing out his support of intersex inclusion in the current anti discrimination consolidation bill in front of Parliament, and his decision last week to ensure Certificates of Non-Impediment were issued to same-sex couples wishing to marry overseas.
“Having presided over the removal of discrimination against gay and lesbian Australian in 85 pieces of legislation, Mr McClelland can also leave his role knowing he has had a positive impact on the lives of thousands of same-sex couples,” Greenwich added.
Members of the LGBTI community are also pleased with the promotions of marriage equality supporter Tanya Plibersek to Health Minister, and the elevation of Mental Health and Ageing Minister Mark Butler to federal Cabinet.
Dr Jo Harrison, a gerontologist from the University of South Australia, told SX that Butler’s move to Cabinet, in particular, was a “tremendous development” for aged care as well as the LGBTI community.
“Minister Butler has shown a keen awareness of LGBTI ageing issues, including through his generous involvement at the recent Roundtable on LGBTI Ageing hosted by ACON and the National LGBTI Health Alliance.
“He has acknowledged that issues impacting on our elders are vitally important and multi-faceted and that a strategic approach to addressing them in a cohesive way at a national level may be warranted,” Harrison said.
“That the Minister’s portfolio also includes Social Inclusion is particularly valuable for our community at a broad level, including for older GLBTI people and those who advocate on their behalf.”