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Australian Senate debates marriage equality

Australian Senate debates marriage equality

A short debate on marriage equality in the Australian Senate has been held but has failed to shed light on the prospects if a vote is held on the issue, with only four senators speaking during the allotted time.

First to speak was the bill’s author, Greens party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who told the parliament that the bill had been amended to further address the concerns of religious opponents who feared that they would be made to solemnize marriages that weren’t in accordance with their faith.

Hanson-Young noted that churches were already protected from this and that churches in Australia frequently decided they could not marry particular couples without any fear of legal action against them.

‘Churches and religious groups can continue to marry those who they fell they would best like to [and] are able to do that without being impinged upon,’ Hanson-Young told Senators.

‘The ability has always been there for churches to choose who they many and choose who they don’t.’

Opposition shadow attorney general George Brandis then spoke, telling senators that his party had made a commitment to the Australian people at the 2010 election that they would not change the existing definition of marriage in Australian law.

He said the ruling Australian Labor Party (ALP) had made the same commitment, ‘but unlike them, we stick by it.’

The ALP voted to add marriage equality to its platform in December of last year.

Brandis claimed that Hanson-Young and other supporters of marriage equality were attempting to silence alternative views.

‘People are entitled to have their own views on marriage as you have yours,’ Brandis said.

‘To me your bill is a bill about marriage but it is not a bill about equality.’

Brandis said same-sex couples already had all the rights of married couples thanks to reforms backed by all of the parties in the Senate in 2008.

Brandis claimed that marriage had been one particular thing for all of human history and called attempts to change that ‘extraordinary impertinence.’

Labor’s Senator Anne Urquhart then spoke, ‘as one of many strong supporters of marriage equality from the Labor Party.’

‘Marriage equality, for many in our party fits with our values of equality, of fairness, of family and compassion – and of course, reason, logic and progression. Values of fairness to all in our community.

‘Australians now overwhelmingly want parliamentarians to amend the Marriage Act to allow any two adults regarless of sex, sexuality or gender identity the privilege of standing before their family and friends and [making] a commitment to each other. To allow the children of people in same-sex couples the stability of knowing that their family is just as special in this country as all other families.’

Urquhart said she had been contacted by many heterosexual brides and grooms who were uneasy that their civil celebrants had been required by law to state a discriminatory definition of marriage as part of their weddings on their special day.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters was the last to speak and was cut off by the speaker when the time allotted for the debate ran out.

Waters called the current legal definition of marriage ‘blatantly discriminatory.’

‘We take the radical stance that all citizens deserve the same rights. Freedom of sexuality and gender identity are fundamental rights and accepting and embracing diversity are essential for justice and real equality in our society.’

‘When it comes to equality, there is no room for compromise.’

Debate was halted at 6pm.

The debate followed another in the House of Representatives earlier in the week, and both are good indications that there will be a vote on the issue soon.