The Australian Greens say a successful vote on marriage equality in the British House of Commons has inspired them to move forward with another bill on marriage equality despite previous bills being defeated in the Parliament when the Australian Opposition refused its members a conscience vote.
The House of Commons passed its bill on Tuesday in a vote of 400 to 175 votes.
Greens deputy leader and Australian House of Representatives member Adam Bandt made the announcement today, telling a press conference that the British vote showed that Australian politicians were on ‘the wrong side of history.’
‘If Catholic Spain can allow people to marry each other regardless of their gender, if Britain can do it, if the president of the United States of America thinks it is time to change, then [Prime Minister] Julia Gillard and [Opposition Leader] Tony Abbott should back it as well,’ Bandt said.
'This is a matter of not if, but when.'
Bandt’s sentiments were echoed on Twitter by Stephen Jones, a member of parliament in the ruling Labor Party who has previously moved a marriage equality bill of his own.
'#marriageequality in UK shows their party called Conservative acting like liberals. In Oz a party called Liberal acts like conservatives,’ Jones tweeted
'I think David Cameron's argument about equality & commitment is a credible argument for conservatives to base marriage equality.'
The Greens and Jones’ bills were defeated in both houses of the Australian Parliament last September after government MPs and senators were allowed to vote with their consciences but opposition MPs and senators were not despite calls by high profile opponents and supporters within the opposition Liberal Party and National Party coalition.
The Greens are hopeful that opposition supporters of a conscience vote can persuade Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to allow a free vote on the issue before Australians go to the polls on September 14.
Abbott is a staunch Catholic who has promised Christian groups that same-sex marriage will not be passed on his watch but the Liberals policy document for this year’s election is silent on the issue.
Pro-same-sex marriage lobby group Australian Marriage Equality (AME) welcomed the British vote and the announcement by the Greens.
‘The majority of Australians who support marriage equality will be pleased to see such resounding support from a country with which we share so much, but this will be tinged with embarrassment that Australia is falling further behind and may soon be the only developed, English-speaking country without marriage equality,’
AME national convener, Rodney Croome said.
‘The fact David Cameron has allowed a conscience vote increases pressure on Tony Abbott to do the same, especially given that a conscience vote is about personal freedom and marriage equality is about strengthening families - both principles which conservatives should support.
‘The UK vote also highlights how, by continuing to oppose marriage equality, our Labor Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is not only out-of-step with her center-left colleagues overseas, but even her conservative counterparts.
‘We call on both Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard to show leadership and stop holding Australia back.’
Croome said that marrying in Britain would be popular for Australians given the number who were dual Australian/British citizens and residents or who were in dual nationality relationships.
‘Given the many British nationals who live in Australia we are likely to see a rush a couples to marry under the new legislation, including those couples who are already in UK civil partnerships and will be able to convert these to marriages,’ Croome said.
‘It is sad that these couples will not have their marriages recognized under the law of the country they live in.’