The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) communities in Australia have welcomed the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to legalise same-sex marriage in all its 50 states – bringing the total of countries worldwide that allow marriage equality to 24.
LGBTI communities in Australia are celebrating and now taking the opportunity to maintain the momentum.
Ashley Fowler, on her blog on Human Rights Campaign, said Australia will be “the next country with an opportunity to approve nationwide marriage equality”.
Noting an all-time high of 72 percent supporting same-sex marriage, she said the Australian Government “will allow its members to vote their conscience on marriage”.
Australia’s marriage equality bills have been defeated many times in both houses of Australian Parliament. Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a devout Catholic, repeated his opposition to “radical changes” that could tear down old-time traditions, including gay and lesbian marriages. Abbott defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. He came under fire in 2013 when he warned LGBTI supporters not to embark on “radical change based on the fashion of the moment”.
“Support for legalization of same-sex marriage has hit an all-time high of 72 percent among Australians. Yet for the past six years, the decision to legalize same sex marriage has been held up in parliament for a variety of political reasons,” Fowler said.
Abbott is unswayed
Despite the US court’s ruling, Abbott is unswayed. He told Australian media in Melbourne on Saturday he will not change his mind as the ruling is a matter for the US, not Australia. He added he is yet to read the court’s ruling and cannot comment any further.
The opposition Labor Party is expected to push back on the agenda when parliament resumes after the winter break. Labor leader Bill Shorten and deputy Tanya Plibersek issued in a joint statement backing calls for action. They said this is a joyous day in America and it is therefore right to make a call to action in Australia.
Shorten called on Abbott to grant a free vote to Liberal MPs on marriage equality and for a Liberal MP to move his marriage equality amendment bill which proposes replacing the words “man and women” with “two people” in defining who can be legally married. Shorten is rallying for the support of MPs to second, move, and have a free vote on his bill.
Shorten said the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision would have implications similar to those that followed last month’s referendum in Ireland. He said the referendum prompted him to introduce his marriage equality bill.
Cabinet Minister Christopher Pyne described the U.S. court’s ruling as “fascinating” and said same-sex marriage will likely be back on the agenda when parliament resumes for voting.
The Australian Greens are happy with the U.S. ruling and said Australia needs to catch up. Senator Janet Rice said in a statement, “The Greens are committed to working with our cross-party colleagues to make sure this happens by the end of the year.”
Rice has been leading a separate campaign to support marriage equality:
Right around the world, marriage equality is becoming a reality for many LGBTI couples. The time has come for marriage equality in Australia. We have an exciting opportunity here – let’s work together and get marriage equality right.
The campaign aims to collect 3,000 signatures. So far “1849 people have showed support representing 61.63% of the goal,” she said.
All eyes on Australia
The Australian Marriage Equality (EMA) announced that with marriage equality achieved across the U.S., America’s largest marriage equality advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) , has launched a campaign to focus world attention on the lack of marriage equality in Australia.
The campaign will raise the profile of the Australian marriage equality campaign, informing its supporters that “all eyes are now on Australia,” EMA National Director Rodney Croome said.
Croome said the HRC has notified millions of its supporters of the fact that “Australia is lagging behind the US and plans to work closely with Australian advocates over the coming weeks to help raise the global profile of the Australian marriage equality campaign.”
Croome said EMA welcomes the support to highlight how far Australia is falling behind. But “as marriage equality has been achieved in the U.S., all eyes will be on Australia with the hope we are next,” he said.