There’s a lot of hullabaloo about marriage equality, both at home and abroad. What does it all mean? Here’s a potentially handy guide that will help you sift through the noise, and hopefully, answer some of your burning questions.
- What is “marriage”?
Depends who you ask. To some, marriage is a necessary right that should be extended to all people, regardless of the gender of the person one loves. To others, it is a sacred and holy bond shared between a man and woman. According to the Marriage Act (1961), “marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others voluntarily entered into for life”. All marriages under foreign law between two men or two women are completely discounted under Australian law.
- So, what does marriage equality mean?
LGBTQIA+ unions or relationships are not formally recognised under the law. The fight for marriage equality hopes to overturn this, and would be a major step towards reconciling with a community who are being marginalised because of their sexuality (though arguably, it would not the be all end all of their fight for rights). The issue has been, and continues to be, a confusingly drawn-out path to equality. LGBTQIA+ people are trying to get their unions recognised under law, you know, because they’re people. Simple.
- What does the Coalition think?
Against marriage equality, and MPs are not permitted a conscience vote (so should the issue come to a parliamentary vote, all Coalition MPs are obliged to vote against marriage equality, regardless of what they or their electorate think).
Current PM Malcom Turnbull has promised a plebiscite that will occur, if re-elected, by the end of this calendar year.
- What the heck is a plebiscite?
An extremely expensive ‘vote’, similar to a referendum, undertaken to gauge public opinion about the issue. PwC estimates the cost of the plebiscite to be about $525m (THAT’S HALF A BILLION DOLLARS, FOLKS), which includes the cost of the actual vote, the nationwide campaign costs, the cost of mental health and wellbeing of people directly affected, and the loss in productivity as a result.
Turnbull has been very quiet about the details of the actual plebiscite, but we do know this: rumours have been flying that Liberal MPs may disregard the result of the poll entirely, and vote however they like, and some conservative MPs may vote against the outcome of the plebiscite if they feel that it reflects the views of the electorate they represent. (Fishy.)
The only difference between a plebiscite and a referendum is that the result of a plebiscite is in no way legally binding for the government, which means Australians would have gone through this terribly confusing, terribly expensive exercise, only to have the whole thing chucked out of Parliament when it comes to vote.
- Wait, what?! So what’s the point of the plebiscite then?
Please direct all further queries to Turnbull’s office, and specifically, the conservative MPs that knifed Abbott on his way out last year.
- What about Labor? What do they think?
The ALP has promised to introduce a bill to parliament to recognise same-sex marriage as its first piece of legislation upon taking office. Efficient, if this promise is fulfilled.
Bill Shorten has personally done some interesting backflips around this issue, but now fully supports marriage equality, condemning the extremely costly plebiscite at the same time.
In full support of marriage equality, and according to their policy, have been in support for the past decade. #LoveIsLove #ItsTimeAustralia
The Greens are also pushing for a free vote in parliament, and to scrap the plebiscite entirely.
As a few side, but related, notes, the Greens also promise increased funding for the Safe Schools program, which offers integral support to young LGBTQIA+ persons, support for the removal of exemptions to religious organisations (who are currently allowed to openly discriminate against individuals based on their sexuality), and are committed to improving the availability of HIV prevention drug PrEP.
- Why is Australia still debating this?
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Your guess is as good as mine.