Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has told gays that her own relationship proves you don’t have to marry.
Gillard, who opposes same-sex marriage equality, isn’t married to her long-term partner Tim Mathieson but says they are still committed to each other.
She told ABC TV: ‘I think you can have a loving relationship of love and commitment and trust and understanding that doesn't need a marriage certificate. That's my life experience – so I'm speaking from that life experience.’
But Australian Marriage Equality national convener, Alex Greenwich, said her comment would be viewed as hurtful by many same-sex couples:
He said: ‘The prime minister is able to choose not to marry, however this choice is denied to many same-sex couples who desperately want to celebrate the traditions of marriage and have the legal protection, security and recognition that comes with marriage.
‘The prime minister may not want to marry herself, but most Australians value the importance of marriage greatly, and as such want their gay and lesbian friends to have equal access and be treated as equal citizens by the marriage act.’
Meanwhile New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key has backed full gay marriage equality, so Greenwich says Gillard’s continued opposition was embarrassing Australia's reputation internationally.
As in Australia, public support for marriage equality in New Zealand is high at about 63% and both National Party leader Key and opposition Labour leader David Shearer have said they will vote for reform when a bill is introduced to the nation’s parliament as early as next month.
Greenwich said: ‘Australia is the only developed English-speaking country without a major party leader who supports marriage equality. This concerns Australians as much as it confuses the world.’
By contrast, Gillard has merely said she says she's happy for her Labor colleagues to have a free vote on marriage equality, despite her own opposition to it.
Meanwhile marriage equality advocates and clergy have slammed an Australian Christian Lobby video campaign which claims same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy.
The video is due to be emailed to 110,000 people and features comments from former High Court judge Michael Kirby where he hints that gay marriage may lead to pressure to extend rights to those in polyamorous relationships.
ACT Uniting Church minister Rev Roger Munson said: ‘The Australian Christian Lobby’s position on this issue is not shared by most Christians. A Galaxy poll in August last year found that 53% of Australian Christians supported marriage equality, and the Victorian Council of Churches affirmed that the Australian Christian Lobby does not represent all Christians.’
While Surry Hills Baptist pastor Pastor Mike Hercock said the ACL were being un-Christian.
He said: ‘There is a consistent, dehumanizing argument presented by the Australian Christian Lobby that attempts to create fear and demonize gay people and their desire for their relationship to be recognized in marriage. This is simply not Christian.’
Finally two leading chains have taken the battle over marriage equality to Australia’s coffee cups.
As GSN reported, Australian 460-store coffee chain Gloria Jean’s Coffees has been exposed as having made a $30,000 donation (Australian dollars, $29,900, €23,700) to the Australian Christian Lobby in the 2010 to 2011.
They played down the payment. But now Starbucks has come out in support of marriage equality in Australia.
Starbucks Australia posted a statement on its Facebook page saying: ‘Core to who we are and what we value as a company is our belief in equal treatment of our partners (employees) and our customers.
‘It is with this in mind that Starbucks Australia would like to publicly announce our proud support of marriage equality for all. Many of our stores and partners are actively participating in events and activities aimed at changing local legislation – together we can make a difference.’
Starbucks in the US already supports marriage equality, sparking a ‘Dump Starbucks’ boycott by anti-equality groups.
But Greenwich said any attempts at a boycott in Australia would be met with strong support for the company from gay marriage backers.