When dominoes are lined up just right, the first one to tip onto its neighbor starts a chain reaction. That is what is happening in Australia, as state and territory legislators vote their support of marriage equality for the country’s same-sex couples.
Last September, Tasmania’s Parliament passed a motion in support of marriage equality in Australia, by a vote of 13 to 9. Then in November, the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly approved a motion calling on the federal government to allow same-sex marriages.
Now Coalition MPs in the New South Wales Upper House of the Parliament have voted 22 to 16 in support of marriage equality. All three votes call on the federal government to reform the Marriage Act so that same-sex couples can wed.
Alex Greenwich, national convener of Australian Marriage Equality said:
The motion says to all federal parliamentarians that this is an important issue Australians want resolved.
As more parliamentarians open their hearts and minds to the issue support inevitably increases.
Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, who brought the private-member’s bill before the NSW Legislative Council, said:
This is a great day. I congratulate my NSW Upper House colleagues for their leadership. Today we are on the right side of history.
Denying anyone the right to marry who they love is ludicrous. It’s last century and it’s time our Federal Parliament caught up.
Opposition comments will sound familiar to anyone who has followed debates in Canada (where same-sex marriage has been allowed since 2005), the U.K. (where it is not legal) and the U.S. (where only a handful of states grant marriage equality). “The Age” reported comments from Labor Leader Luke Foley, who said:
…that as a practising Catholic he believed civil unions were more appropriate for gay couples than marriage.
”I do believe that homosexual relationships are different to a married relationship,” he said, adding a ”procreative relationship open to the possibility of children” was an ”essential feature of marriage”.
Another Liberal member, Matthew Mason-Cox trotted out the polygamy argument:
Indeed, if one was to take the notion of equality of marriage to its logical conclusion, then there would be no reason to stand in the way of polygamist marriages, or other variants.
‘This is the so-called slippery slope in this debate which has manifested itself overseas in some jurisdictions where same-sex marriage has been allowed.’
Mason-Cox may have been thinking of Canada, where the issue of a polygamous Mormon community was brought before the courts and declared illegal. In fact, in countries where same-sex marriage is allowed, the result has been anything but earth shaking for the institution of marriage. What it has done is strip away one of the remaining excuses for marginalizing the LGBTQ community.
Pressure is mounting for a conscience vote in Australia’s federal parliament. With the first three jurisdictions having voted in favor of allowing same-sex marriages, the dominoes are beginning to fall. As Steve Williams wrote last October, the majority of Australians support marriage equality. It is time for their government to catch up.
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