The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSW) notes the release of the report by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs on the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 and Marriage Amendment Bill 2012.
Over 275,000 people made submissions to the Committee, with 64 percent indicating their support for marriage equality and the recognition of foreign same-sex marriages.
Despite this, the GLRL is disappointed that the Committee did not adopt a position on whether to recommend the bills.
The two bills introduced by Greens MP Adam Bandt and Labor MP Stephen Jones seek to amend the gender specific definition of marriage in the Marriage Act 1961.
In 2008, the Federal Government amended over 85 de facto laws to ensure relationship recognition for same-sex couples in the areas of superannuation, parenting, immigration, veterans’ benefits and taxation.
GLRL Co-Convenor, Lainie Arnold, welcomed some of the report’s findings, stating that, “While de facto recognition has provided much substantive legal protection, the Committee has outlined that there continues to be procedural advantages and greater portable recognition for those who are married.”
GLRL Co-Convenor, Justin Koonin, added, “Marriage equality also offers symbolic recognition of the depth and dignity of our relationships.”
Same-sex marriages legally solemnised overseas are currently not recognised in Australia.
As Committee Chair, Graham Perrett MP, highlights in the report, the bills seek to enable civil marriage for all couples while preserving the existing protection for religious ministers.
Almost 70 percent of marriages in Australia are conducted by civil celebrants.
Mr Koonin noted that, “Marriage does not have a religious mandate in Australian law. A key feature of the Committee’s report is recognising that the existing exemptions for religious ministers have been deliberately defined in both bills to ensure that they are not required to perform a marriage that contravenes their faith.”
Ms Arnold elaborated, “While we are disappointed by the lack of Committee consensus, we hope this report will encourage MPs to see that marriage reform is happening across the world, and there is strong community support in Australia for all individuals to be able to marry, regardless of the gender of who they love.”
Regardless of which bill is adopted, the GLRL hopes MPs will take a bipartisan approach to implement reforms to enable same-sex couples to marry in Australia.