Australian Government and Greens block gay marriage referendum

The Australian Government and Greens have joined forces to stop an attempt to initiate a referendum on gay marriage in Australia by a senator from the right wing Catholic Democratic Labor Party

Australian Government and Greens block gay marriage referendum
09 December 2013

Advocates for same-sex marriage in Australia have praised Liberal and National party senators in the Australian Government and senators from the Greens for joining forces to defeat an attempt to begin the process of having a referendum on same-sex marriage in Australia.

Democratic Labour Party senator John Madigan put forward a motion to establish an inquiry into holding a referendum on same-sex marriage earlier today.

His motion was supported by senators from the main opposition Australian Labor Party but was defeated in what is probably the first move by the government of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to be welcomed by LGBTI rights activists since his taking power in September.

Australian Marriage Equality (AME) national director Rodney Croome praised Government senators and the Greens for torpedoing the inquiry and called for Labor to back away from supporting a referendum.

‘We thank the Government and the Greens for voting against this inquiry, but we are disappointed Labor voted for it and call on the ALP to make it clear it opposes a marriage equality referendum,’ Croome said.

‘Polls show two thirds of Australians support marriage equality, but I fear a referendum would become a platform for fear and hatred as we saw last week in Croatia.

‘Never before has there been a referendum on marriage law [in Australia], including when same-sex marriages were banned in 2004, so it is a double standard to have a referendum on allowing same-sex marriage. Fundamental human rights should not be decided by a show of hands.

Croome said Madigan’s motion for an inquiry had no potential for a good outcome for LGBTI Australians.

‘Under the Madigan Model there is a one-sided choice between ruling out same-sex marriage completely with a constitutional amendment or simply allowing the Federal Government to legislate for marriage equality should it wish to,’ Croome said.

‘The only thing worse than a referendum on marriage equality is a referendum on marriage equality that doesn’t actually allow the people to vote for equality.’

Referendums in Australia are only used to change the constitution and same-sex marriage is banned in the federal Marriage Act, not the constitution, so a referendum would not legalize same-sex marriage in Australia even if a majority of Australians voted for it.

However a referendum could possibly be used to place a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Australia – making the path to its legalization even harder.

The Democratic Labor Party split from the opposition Australian Labor Party in 1955 to become a conservative Catholic morality-based anti-Communist workers party but had been cast to the political fringe since 1978 before Madigan’s election to the senate in 2010.

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