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Labor push on gay vote to kill issue

Date

Michelle Grattan and Dan Harrison

Labor figures are pushing for a vote on gay marriage, possibly as early as next week.

Labor figures are pushing for a vote on gay marriage, possibly as early as next week. Photo: Wolter Peeters

SENIOR Labor figures are pushing for a vote on gay marriage, possibly as early as next week, to clear the issue off the agenda.

But as five ministers argued in favour of legalising gay unions in yesterday's parliamentary debate, the Greens' Adam Bandt said an early vote would look like ''a cynical move on Labor's part''.

Chief government whip Joel Fitzgibbon - who earlier told Parliament gay marriage was an ''11th-order issue'' - said last night that the speakers' list for the debate on Labor MP Stephen Jones' bill in the House of Representatives ''was almost exhausted''.

''I'd expect the bill would be voted on sooner rather than later,'' he told The Age. ''I don't see any impediment to it being voted on next week.''

But leader of the House Anthony Albanese, a supporter of gay marriage who is yet to speak, would not put a time on the vote. ''We want to give everyone the opportunity to speak,'' he said. The vote would be some time between now and the end of the year.

The Jones bill will be defeated: Labor is divided and Coalition MPs are bound to vote against it.

Meanwhile, a bill co-sponsored by Labor senators Trish Crossin, Gavin Marshall, Louise Pratt and Carol Brown is expected to be debated and voted on in the Senate next week. There are now two private members' bills - one Labor and one from the Greens - in each house.

Senator Crossin said the Labor senators had introduced their bill because they wanted to see the issue debated in the Senate, and were pessimistic about the chances of the Jones bill passing the lower house.

Gay marriage campaigners would like to see the issue voted on first in the Senate, where there is more support for change.

While campaigners say they are hopeful a majority of senators could be gathered from Green senators, and sympathetic Labor senators, crossbenchers and coalition backbenchers, Senator Crossin admitted change was unlikely because the Coalition was bound to vote against it.

Mr Bandt, who also has a private member's bill, said: ''Labor needs to decide whether its priority is to get this off the political agenda or whether we'll actually get reform.

''I'm very worried that Labor's plan is just to get this to a vote as quickly as possible so that it's no longer an issue come the next federal election. And the problem with that is that it takes the pressure off Tony Abbott.'' Mr Bandt doesn't want an early vote in either house.

Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan today refused to say whether the federal government plans to overturn a gay marriage law that could pass through the Tasmanian parliament.

Tasmania's lower house last month became the first chamber of an Australian parliament to pass a bill to legalise same-sex marriage.

The bill must now pass the upper house before the island state becomes Australia's first gay wedding destination.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare told Parliament he had switched his view on gay marriage. He had always believed that marriage was between a man and a woman. ''But society's views are not set in stone. They change, and so have mine.''

Schools minister Peter Garrett said that a desire by same-sex couples for the same recognition as others would not weaken the institution of marriage - if anything, it would strengthen it.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said the critics of legalising gay marriage were concerned about the fabric of our society and our values. ''In fact, to me the values that this bill promotes are conservative values. It is saying that if you love someone, you should form a bond with that person for life.''

She believed change inevitable, but not this year.

Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Mark Butler said he supported change because ''this is the right thing to do''.

Employment Participation Minister Kate Ellis said: ''In a question of inclusion or exclusion, I choose inclusion.''

Mr Fitzgibbon said he was not convinced that the current wording of the Marriage Act was discriminatory. ''From my perspective, the Marriage Act is an instrument for procreation between opposite-sex couples,'' he said.

''I do not think it matters much to our society, quite frankly, whether same-sex couples marry or not. I do not think it benefits them greatly and I do not think it disadvantages the rest of our society greatly either. I will probably be attacked for saying this, but I think this is a sort of 11th-order issue.''

Liberal frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull said that were there a Coalition free vote he would support the legislation.

''This whole issue drips with hypocrisy, and the pools are deepest at the feet of the sanctimonious. The reality is this: the threat to marriage, and to marriages, is not what gay people may do; it is lack of commitment, it is cruelty, it is indifference, it is adultery.''

He said the numbers were not there for change now - even if there were a free Coalition vote - and advocated Parliament legislate for civil unions.

with AAP

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93 comments

  • Sad this is still taking so much time. If two people love each...let them get married! where's the problem? The problem is the people with misdirected 'core values'. Their 'core values' should be directed towards ensuring more hospitals, dentists, aged care...not stopping people who love each other getting married!

    Commenter
    Dan from Narre warren
    Date and time
    September 11, 2012, 7:59AM
    • Agreed, Just let me marry my girlfriend so we can move on to other issues :)

      Commenter
      Asycna
      Date and time
      September 11, 2012, 9:19AM
    • but Dan et al - if it about people who love each other why do YOU hold such a narrow bigoted views on this matter?

      Do you support 14 year olds getting married? If they are old enough to choose to have sex then then can surely decide if they want to marry. Who are you to say they are too young?

      Alternatively what is wrong with a 13 year old marrying a 48 year old if they love each other? Who are you to say this is wrong? Just because in YOUR culture this is wrong who are you to say it is wrong.

      What about people having multiple wives? In lots of cultures over centuries this has and still is perfectly acceptable. Do you support this and if not why not? If they love each other who are you to say they can't? We have these cultures here in Australia so you MUST allow them to marry as well if you are about love and equality.

      This was in the Canberra times recently - 'Pregnant at 14: teen lovers in sex trial' Why is there such a big deal if they are in love....

      Many people claim to be 'progressive' and 'inclusive' and wanting to remove discrimination but NONE of you are true to your claims. NONE of you are actually trying to obtain maggiage EQUALITY for ALL.

      I challenge any of you who are in favour of gay marriage and equality to tell me why you are not petitioning the alternative relationships i raised. Do you not believe your own mantra about equally ??

      Commenter
      Nick
      Date and time
      September 11, 2012, 9:57AM
    • Interesting point you raise Nick,
      My take on the issue is this. The legal status of minors as being unable to consent renders them in a vastly different situation to that of an adult. Cultural relativism isn't a valid justification as it is scientific fact that children's brains, let alone bodies have not matured and there simply is not enough life experience to allow them to make such decisions about sex. Study after study can back this up. Homosexuality, on the other hand, is proven not be a mental illness, occurs in nature and occurs between consenting adults, and i feel the adult part of this is the most important part. Now, with regard to multiple-spouse marriages, from the point of view of freedom, people should be able to do whatever they like. The fact that 100 people decide to get married seems a little crazy to me, and I highly doubt that if you legalised it that everyone would start having multiple-spouse marriages for the sake of it. People are responsible enough to make their own decisions there, and there's nothing stopping these sorts of relationships happening in any case informally. What this is about is the civil, secular legal recognition of a relationship between consenting adults, without any imposition on churches having to make these changes as they are protected under freedom of religion.

      As a gay person, who feels a part of society in many ways, and wants to contribute in many others, I feel that who I am attracted to should have no bearing on my treatment by my government in denying to me the right to a decision that heterosexuals are entitled to make.

      Commenter
      carltonstudent
      Date and time
      September 11, 2012, 10:24AM
    • Nick, Thanks for the dumbest argument I've heard for a long time. Anyone under age is PROTECTED by the law because of their age. This is why when they break a law they don't go to jail or face the same punishments as adults. This is designed to acknowledge that minors often don't make the right choices and the government takes on the responsibility of protecting them. They can wait to turn 18 and get married, how long should we make gay people wait?

      BUT lets just say we scrap minor protection because under your failed equality arguments it discrimination. What would happen? Well young people favor gay marriage at a rate of 3 against 1. Throw their new voting powers into the next election and you have such an overwhelming support for gay marriage that it becomes law. Problem solved!

      Commenter
      James
      Date and time
      September 11, 2012, 10:34AM
    • sigh... OK Nickypoos here we go. We are talking about consenting adults here, not minors, or animals, can you make a distinction there? As for plural marriage, well I don't know, lets have that debate if and when people call for it.

      Right now it's about consenting adults and recognising homosexual relationships as equal to heterosexual ones.

      Commenter
      cap'n crunch
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      September 11, 2012, 11:13AM
    • @Nick, we're not petitioning for those other forms of marriage for the same reasons you object to them. Is that too difficult a concept to grasp? Gay marriage, for example, would include the same restrictions: It would be between adults, and wouldn't include such chestnuts opponents choose to raise like polygamy or bestiality. On the other hand, why are you against gay marriage? Name one single harm it does, and why is it of lesser value than marriage between straight couples? Or would you prefer to continue with straw man arguments vs providing an honest answer?

      Commenter
      Jon
      Location
      reality
      Date and time
      September 11, 2012, 11:13AM
    • The problem? The problem is it's supposed to be Adam and Eve, not Adam and STEVE!

      Commenter
      Good to be King
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      September 11, 2012, 11:29AM
    • To compare marriage between two consenting adults with marriage to children is specious at best. This is an argument about equality between adults, not about allowing pedophilia, or bestiality or whatever other nonsense you want to dredge up that somehow makes you think it supports your strawman argument. No one is asking for the age of consent to be reduced. If homosexuality is legal, as heterosexuality is, then there should be no barrier to gay couples being given the same rights as straight couples. If a particular religious sect refuses to marry them, then that is a private matter (last time I looked, Mulsims can't get married in a Catholic service); however, this is a state issue and as such religious beliefs are entirely irrelevant to the consideration.

      Commenter
      Jace
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      September 11, 2012, 11:39AM
    • @ Good t be King - That point is completely old and irrelevant. A lot of people don't believe in your Adam & Eve story and quite frankly it is insulting.

      Commenter
      Proto
      Date and time
      September 11, 2012, 11:40AM

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