Census excludes same-sex marriage

November 17, 2007

Stuart Baanstra, a Community Action Against Homophobia (CAAH) activist, is going to court over refusing to sign the 2006 Census. His first hearing on November 6 resulted in a rescheduling of the hearing until November 27.

Baanstra refused to fill out the census because "it discriminates against queer people. Question six refuses to classify homosexuals as married. All same-sex relationships were to be categorised as de facto even when partners ticked the marriage box. I refused to sign ... because it makes same-sex marriage invisible", Baanstra told Green Left Weekly. He is being charged with "failing to comply with a notice of direction" by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The magistrate has the power to dismiss charges against Baanstra, given he accepts the option of a guilty plea with mitigating circumstances. However, the magistrate could find against him as well. Possible penalties include a fine, court costs and requirement to enter into a good behaviour bond of up to three years.

Peter Furness, an activist with Australian Marriage Equality, also took action against the ABS and refused to sign onto the census when it was released in 2006. Furness and his partner were married in Canada. After their action the ABS undertook to count same-sex marriages, resulting in Furness and his husband signing the census. However, when the figures were published in June, the ABS had categorised all same-sex relationships as de facto. After an inquiry, the ABS offered to extract the count of same-sex marriages for a fee of $405.

"It is an outrage that the ABS produces a census that excludes same-sex marriage", said Alan Brennan, a CAAH spokesperson. "Many couples are getting married in Canada and Spain only to come back here and not be recognised by the government or counted by the statisticians. It's a double insult the ABS said they will count marriage but only if we pay them. The action that Peter Furness and Stuart Baanstra have taken against the ABS is courageous ... Homosexual love needs to be counted." CAAH will be holding a solidarity action outside the Downing Centre Local Court on November 27 at 9am.

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