Senate committee backs same-sex bill
A SENATE committee has thrown its support behind a Greens bill to legalise same-sex marriage.
Unlike the House of Representatives committee that examined two similar bills before the lower house, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young's Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 gained majority support from the cross-party inquiry which generated immense interest, attracting more than 75,000 submissions.
Ms Hanson-Young said the report amounted to a strong endorsement of her legislation, which she introduced in February, 2010.
"This is an amazing achievement. It really shows how far things have come since 2009," Ms Hanson-Young told reporters in Canberra, referring to past attempts at similar legislation.
"Now we have seen people changing their hearts and changing their minds on this issue; not just out there in the community, but it is happening here in Parliament House."
In supporting the legislation the committee made four recommendations, including the need for a conscience vote.
Despite repeated calls from the Greens and gay rights campaigners Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has refused to allow a conscience vote.
The bill has the support of Liberal senators Simon Birmingham and Queensland's Sue Bryce, who sat on the committee.
The senators provided extensive additional comments for the report, outlining their reasons for supporting the bill and the need for a conscience vote.
"... the existence of divided opinion alone is not sufficient to warrant a conscience vote. But the fact that individual views on this matter are almost entirely informed by moral, ethical and religious values, from which people within different political parties reach differing conclusions, does make it an obvious area for a conscience vote," they wrote.
But not all committee members support the bill or the recommendations.
Seven Labor MPs provided reasons for their opposition.
The senators concluded it was an issue of "definition, not discrimination" and the bill would change what marriage means - that is, a union between a man and a woman.
They claimed the report "selectively reported on submissions which support the majority view", as well as rejecting the view same-sex marriage was a fundamental human right.
Liberal Senators Gary Humphries, Eric Abetz and Michaelia Cash also produced a dissenting report.
They claimed not all evidence was considered and the report was biased in a number of ways.
Passing the bill would be a breach of trust by the Parliament, they wrote.
- That all political parties allow their federal senators and members a conscience vote on the issue of marriage equality for all couples in Australia.
- That the definition of "marriage" in item 1 of Schedule 1 of the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 be amended to mean "the union of two people, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life".
- That the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 be amended to include an application, or "avoidance of doubt", clause which expressly provides that the amendments made by Schedule 1 of the bill do not limit the effect of section 47 of the Marriage Act.
- The committee strongly supports the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 and recommends that it be debated and passed into law, subject to the suggested amendments set out in recommendations 2 and 3.