Australia’s Northern Territory may become the country’s third jurisdiction to legalize same-sex marriage after the ruling Labor Party announced it would allow its members a conscience vote on the issue if such legislation came before the territory’s parliament.
Embarrassingly for opponents, the announcement was made by NT Labor to the main lobby group opposed to same-sex marriage in Australia.
In reply to a survey by the anti-gay Australian Christian Lobby, the party wrote, ‘If there is a proposal to amend the definition of marriage in the Territory, members of the Australian Labor Party will vote according to their conscience.’
The party also refused to rule out giving same-sex couples the right to adopt children.
Currently only married couples, and in limited circumstances, single persons can adopt in the Northern Territory
With no Greens party MPs currently sitting in the NT Parliament, a private members bill for same-sex marriage would have to be put forward from within Labor’s own ranks. But that may change at the upcoming Northern Territory election where the Greens could win a seat.
The announcement follows statements by the South Australian and Tasmanian state governments that they would move to legalize same-sex marriage under state law if the Australian government refused to do so at a national level.
Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Alex Greenwich praised the move by the NT Government.
‘We applaud NT Labor for opening up the possibility of the Northern Territory joining Tasmanian and South Australia in allowing same-sex couples to marry,’ Greenwich said.
‘If the Northern Territory were to pass marriage equality it would send a strong message to the rest of the nation that the time has come for national reform.’
Northern Territorians go to the polls on Saturday in what is predicted to be a close election.