Published on Thursday 22nd September 2016
Marriage Equality in Australia
Figure One: Same sex marriage, Source: Google Images
Same-sex marriage has been on the political agenda within Australia for several years (Maley 2016). In addition, the Australian public have witnessed a number of political events that have brought the topic of same-sex marriage to the forefront of public consciousness within Australia (Maley 2016).
The way in which the media has framed the current debate over legalising same-sex marriage within Australia has negatively affected the way in which the Australian public has viewed and responded to this situation. In the case of the media’s reporting, homesexuals have been marginalised in the light of the media’s agenda setting. Such occurrences clearly illustrates a marginalised voice and the concept of being vulnerable when dealing with Australia’s current constitution. Consequently, having a marginalised voice limits the LGBITQ community’s platform to express their views and to defend their position when required.
According to Nunez (2016) same-sex marriage still remains illegal in 73 countries including, Iran and Saudi Arabia. In contrast, Australia still remains without legislation that legally recognises same-sex marriage as part of Australia’s constitution (Nunez 2016). Consequently, LGBITQ individuals are forced to go to countries like Canada, Finland, New Zealand and the United States of American where same-sex marriage is legalised and a part of their government’s constitution (Nunez 2016).
This can be portrayed in the below image which illustrates those countries that have legalised same-sex marriage and those countries that still remain without legislation that recognises and allows for same-sex marriage.
Figure Two: Where same-sex marriage is legalised, Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
According to the Parliament of Australia, 2008 and 2009 saw a significant fluctuate in government reforms with the main objective of providing equal marriage entitlements for all homesexuals (Neilsen n.d.). In contrast, Australia’s 43rd parliament witnessed an increased attention on the political debate of same-sex marriage (Neilsen n.d.). Consequently, this saw the introduction of three new bills that were specially designed to amend Australia’s Marriage Act 1961 in order for the Australian Government to legally recognise same-sex marriage, however, these bills were not passed under parliament and no successful attempts have been made by previous government leaders to change the definition of marriage (Neilsen n.d.). Australia’s Marriage Act 1961 strictly outlines that marriage is between a man and a women (Neilsen n.d.).
However, 2016 has seen a positive contemporary political agenda with the debate of same-sex-marriage at the forefront of government consciousness. The Turnbull Government has proposed to hold a plebiscite in February 2017 that would engage the entire Australian population in the discussion of same-sex marriage within Australia. However, recent media coverage suggests that the plebiscite is receiving negative political attention from some Australian citizens and politicians.
Australia’s Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has rejected the Turnbull Government’s proposed plebiscite as he believes that it has the potential to provoke further discriminatory remarks amongst the LGBITQ community and that gay teenagers could turn to suicide as a result of the public’s vote (Lewis 2016). I believe that this could be seen as a political ploy to embarrass or to persuade the Australia Government and Malcolm Turnbull to do what Mr. Shorten wants, in this case, disallowing the Australian public’s vote from going ahead in February 2017. This is based on the concept that Mr. Shorten believes that the bill will not be passed under the Australian Government (Lewis 2016). Consequently, this has ramped up pressure on the Australian Government to drop the plebiscite and to allow for a private member’s bill to be introduced into parliament (Lewis 2016).
Sky News broadcasted an online media release on September 12th 2016 suggesting that taxpayers will provide $15 million to fund advertising materials and resources required for both sides of the same-sex marriage debate (Sky News 2016). This came after concerns were raised in parliament on where the money would come from in order to fund both sides of the plebiscite campaign (Sky News 2016). Member of the Liberal Party Eric Abetz commented that ‘the plebiscite would not be proper if money was withheld from each perspective campaigns’ (Harris 2016).
Grossit (2012) further indicates that The Australian Greens are against a plebiscite as they believe that it is a waste of taxpayer’s money and that the money could be better used on other things like road upgrades and funding for local hospitals. Australian Senator and Leader of The Australian Greens Richard Di Natale commented that ‘legalising same-sex marriage is a part of our political platform and we want to see a free vote in parliament as soon as possible’ (Grossit 2012).
The video (below) is a small extract from parliament question time that discusses that the money that is given to the two committees (the yes and no campaign) will be utilised for advertising purposes only. Malcolm Turnbull also comments that this will enable each campaign to get their message across as to why the Australian public should vote for either proposals.
According to the Australian Marriage Equality (AME) a majority of Australian citizens now believe that same-sex marriage should be legalised in Australia, further suggesting that homesexuals should be given the same rights as heterosexuals to marry within Australia (Texter 2016).
Research conducted by the AME late in June 2014 revealed the strong and growing support for same-sex marriage (Texter 2016). According to the AME data in 2014, almost 72% of Australian citizens now support same-sex marriage, while 21% still oppose legalising same-sex marriage within Australia (Texter 2016).
This can be portrayed in the below graph that clearly illustrates those individuals who are in support, those who oppose and those who are undecided about the Turnbull Government implementing legislation that would legalise same-sex marriage within Australia.
Figure Three: Record support for same-sex marriage, Source: CIT Group
Same-sex marriage has been on Australia’s political agenda for several years (Maley 2016). In previous years the debate surrounding legalising same-sex marriage within Australia has been deep seated with no clear set of corrective actions or an appropriate time line for resolution. However, 2016 has witnessed a positive contemporary political agenda with the debate of same-sex marriage at the forefront of government consciousness. Although some individuals would agree that the plebiscite is a waste of taxpayer’s money I, however, strongly believe that all homesexuals should be granted the same rights and privileges as heterosexuals to marry within Australia. It is evident from recent media coverage that a decision about same-sex marriage deserves a determining vote by the whole nation that will conclude the debate, and only a formal vote at a referendum can achieve that (Maley 2016). Consequently, this will allow all Australian citizens the opportunity to express their approval or disapproval for an amendment to Australia’s current Marriage Act.
Grossi, R 2012, ‘The meaning of love in the debate for legal recognition of same-sex marriage in Australia’, International Journal of Law in Context, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 487-505.
Harris, R 2016, ‘Same-sex marriage plebiscite: both sides of debate to receive $15m for advertising if Government wins support’, The Herald Sun, 12 September, viewed 17 September 2016, http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/samesex-marriage-plebiscite-both-sides-of-debate-to-receive-15m-for-advertising-if-government-wins-support/news-story/bd655c3a478ab632ce3ae6536acd7f47
Lewis, R 2016, ‘Gay marriage plebiscite could lead to suicide: Shorten’, The Australian, 12 September, viewed 19 September 2016, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/abetz-warns-turnbull-over-gay-marriage-plebiscite/news-story/fd43ec15f3dbe3da812fc36ffe07da5d
Maley, B 2016, ‘Reflections on a same-sex marriage plebiscite’, Policy, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 30-32.
Nunez, C 2016, Map Shows Where Being LGBT Can Be Punishable by Law, 16 June, viewed 19 September 2016, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/06/lgbt-laws-gay-rights-world-map
Singhal, P 2015, ‘Malcolm Turnbull says US gay marriage judgement adds to momentum in Australia’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 June, viewed 18 September 2016, http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/malcolm-turnbull-says-us-marriage-equality-judgment-clearly-adds-to-momentum-in-australia-20150628-ghzths.html
Storyful News (poster) 2016, Malcolm Turnbull says money for same-sex plebiscite will be used for advertising, video, 12 September, viewed 16 September 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AV2tvuPcXIQ
Sky News 2016, television program, Australia, 13 September, http://www.skynews.com.au/news/politics/federal/2016/09/13/public-funds-for–opinions–on-plebiscite.html
Texter, M 2014, Record support for same-sex marriage, CIT Group: Research, Strategies and Results, 15 July, viewed 18 September 2016, http://www.crosbytextor.com/news/record-support-for-same-sex-marriage/
Neilsen, M (n.d.) ‘Same-sex marriage’, Parliament of Australia, viewed 16 September 2016, http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BriefingBook44p/Marriage