Marriage inquiry finds overwhelming support, but bill on hold

Support for marriage equality continues to grow.

A Senate committee recommended on June 25 that Australian parliament make marriage equality law after almost 60% of 46,000 submissions were in favour. A report tabled for the lower house on June 18 also had overwhelming support, but did not support or reject the two marriage equality bills before parliament.

The lower house committee received a record 276,000 responses during its inquiry, with more than two-thirds in support of gay marriage.

The committee chairman, Labor MP Graham Perrett, told parliament: “It's undefendable and unjust that two people who love each other are unable to marry each other because of their sexual orientation.”

The inquiry also conducted an survey, which asked respondents whether they supported the bill put by Greens MP Adam Bandt or Labor MP Stephen Jones. The survey showed 64% supported the Greens bill and 60% supported Jones.

Bandt's bill adds the word “equality”. He said he put the separate bill due to fears that Jones’ bill could be altered and reduced to a bill for civil unions.

Despite this huge support, it is unlikely federal parliament will vote on either bill until the end of the year.

Bandt's or Jones’s bill were expected to be put to parliament after the inquiry was tabled. But Jones's office told Green Left Weekly he will hold off putting the bill.

The SMH said on June 18 that Bandt would push for Opposition leader Tony Abbott to allow a Coalition conscience vote on the issue”, instead of pushing for a vote now because “we run the risk of them being voted down”.

Despite the inclusive, well-supported marriage bill, Bandt’s stance is problematic. There are no guarantees of how long it will take for the situation in parliament to change regarding politicians who will vote in favour of Bandt’s (or Jones’s) marriage bill.

It may be advantageous to put the bill before parliament now, to see who votes against it. Even if the bill is rejected, at least marriage equality supporters will know who the opponents are and who to target.

Bandt and Jones also included religious exemptions to allow churches to refuse to marry same-sex couples. Reverend Karl Hand, pastor for Metropolitan Community Church Crave, told GLW the exemptions were “not about religious freedom, but enshrining in law the ability of churches to discriminate against gay and lesbian people.”

The grassroots marriage equality campaign is strong, and in a good position to grow. We need to continue to battle at this level to win full marriage equality, with no exemptions.

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