Australia has been criticized for falling behind other first world nations in its treatment of LGBTI people as the government continues to put off legalizing same-sex marriage.
Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain and Iceland singled out Australia for criticism as part of the United Nations Human Rights Universal Periodic Review of its commitment to human rights.
Sweden criticized Australia for not only failing to allow gay couples to marry at home but also refusing to recognize legal marriages performed by Australia’s international diplomatic partners.
‘What steps is the Australian Government taking towards amending the federal Marriage Act in order to allow same-sex couples to marry? Will the Australian Government provide full recognition of same-sex marriages from overseas?’ Sweden put forward in its advance questions to Australia.
Holland wanted to know what steps Australia was making to ensure its marriage laws do not discriminate against people based on gender.
‘Is Australia willing to revise the Marriage Act 1961 in such a way that equality is ensured and that same-sex couples and people with diverse sex and genders will be granted access to the civil institution of marriage?’ the Netherlands’ delegates asked.
The delegates from Ireland were even more direct, saying ‘we encourage Australia to take steps towards equal recognition of same-sex marriage,’ at last night’s Human Rights Council meeting.
Australia’s campaign to legalize same-sex marriage said the Australian people would be growing concerned about how they were viewed on this issue by their international peers after this kind of diplomatic grilling.
‘If Australia is to maintain its international reputation for tolerance and inclusion we have to allow marriage equality,’ Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said.
‘Many Australians will feel embarrassed that a traditionally conservative country like Ireland is pointing the finger at us over a reform that should have occurred years ago.’
The Australian Government has said it will hold a non-legally binding vote on the issue after the next national elections and only after that will lawmakers be given a free vote on the issue.
Australia’s political opposition say they will ditch a popular vote and allow lawmakers to directly pass the reform if they win the next election.