FAMILY: by Richard EganNews Weekly
Hard-won victory on Marriage Amendment Bill
, August 28, 2004
In June 2003, the Supreme Court of Ontario changed the common law definition of marriage to accommodate same-sex couples. News Weekly reported that this finding had grave implications for Australia.
The passage of the Marriage Amendment Bill 2004 has forestalled this particular threat to marriage.
It will preclude any recognition by Australian officials or judges of same-sex marriages contracted overseas in places such as Ontario, Quebec or Massachusetts where same-sex marriage has been legalised by court order.
Labor's support for the passage of the Bill finally gave effect to an earlier Caucus decision to support the Howard Government's proposal to incorporate the traditional definition of marriage in the Marriage Act 1961.
However, Labor had previously derailed the Government's efforts to pass this legislation. An earlier version, the Marriage Legislation Amendment Bill 2004 was referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee by the Senate, with Labor voting with the Australian Democrats to ensure this Committee was not due to report until October 7. This clearly created the risk that the Bill could not be voted on before the Parliament was dissolved for an election.
The Government responded to this by introducing a new version of the Bill, the Marriage Amendment Bill 2004. This Bill did not include adoption provisions. Nonetheless, on June 24 Labor voted in the Senate against the first reading of this Bill.
In response to these actions of the ALP, the National Civic Council and the Australian Family Association initiated a major campaign to persuade Labor to stop its stalling tactics and support the passage of the Marriage Amendment Bill 2004 during the August Senate sitting.
Many of our supporters telephoned Labor leader Mark Latham and local Labor MPs and Senators as we requested. Along with other pro-family groups, we generated thousands of submissions to the Senate inquiry.
It was at this Forum on August 4, that Nicola Roxon, Labor's shadow attorney-general, announced that if the Marriage Amendment Bill 2004 was re-introduced to the Senate during that fortnight then Labor would vote for its passage. Subsequent efforts by the homosexual lobby and its supporters in shadow cabinet and caucus to reverse this commitment were resisted by Mark Latham.
It is clear that this outcome is a victory for the family, for grassroots democracy and for the future of Australia. It is also of great encouragement to our friends in the United States and elsewhere who are engaged in a similar battle for marriage.
While we are grateful to those within the Labor Party who argued vigorously for this course of action, it is important to note that Labor has restated its commitment to give legal recognition to same-sex couples.
Just as Labor governments have done in almost every State and Territory, if Labor wins the Federal election they will amend every piece of Federal legislation - other than the Marriage Act 1961 - to secure the same benefits for same-sex couples as are given by Federal legislation to married couples and opposite-sex de facto couples. This would include superannuation, social security, veterans' benefits and access to the Family Court of Australia for division of property following separation.
While we should savour this very significant victory, we should also realise that the fight for marriage is not over yet.
We are grateful to all of our supporters who acted on our call to arms and contributed to this victory.
- Richard Egan is WA state president of the National Civic Council.
- See also the Australian Family Association web site for articles about the gender agenda, the powerful homosexual lobby and threats to marriage and family - www.family.org.au