Rudd govt anti-same-sex-discrimination bill depends on the Senate balance of power

The Age:

The Age believes Attorney-General Robert McClelland will announce today that he will introduce amendments to Parliament as early as next month to alter around 100 federal laws.

The changes will not allow gay marriages or same-sex couples to adopt children, and the issue of access to the Family Court for same-sex couples is still being resolved.

Some of the changes would take effect immediately, but many financial laws — such as social security, tax and veterans’ affairs — would be phased in by mid-2009. But first the changes will have to be passed by the Senate, where the Coalition retains its majority until July 1.

Even after then, Labor will need the vote of conservative Christian and Family First senator Steve Fielding and independent senator Nick Xenophon if it cannot clinch Coalition support.

Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson has signalled he backed the principle of removing discrimination against gay couples but has yet to secure formal support from his colleagues.

This is the sort of situation that led to my rabbiting on so much about the importance of balancing the Senate in our last election. I’ll bet on Fielding voting against this bill, in which case unless the Liberals support it it won’t go through.

The other option is a conscience vote, but I don’t know how often the Senate has practised that option. So, if you have a Liberal Senator in your state, contact that senator and register your support for this bill. It’s a dead cert that many social conservatives will be contacting them to register their opposition. Your calls /letters/emails might make the difference to a wavering politician, stiffening their spine to formally support Nelson’s backing of the principle of the bill.

For more information on the rights and responsibilities for married and de-facto heterosexual couples which are currently denied to same-sex couples under Federal Law, the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby has a section devoted to the issue.

Categories: culture wars, ethics & philosophy, law & order, social justice

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17 replies

  1. For those looking for a list of senators, check out this APH page.

  2. feral sparrowhawk pointed out that if the Senate does block the bill that will end up being a double dissolution trigger, which I’m embarrassed not to have had at my fingertips and included in the post.
    SO depending how evil you are you could either contact a Lib Senator to encourage them to support the bill so as to avoid DD, or you could encourage the Senator to oppose so that you can enjoy the vicarious pleasure of watching Turnbull tank in his Paddo-Darlo electorate if they go to an election with this bill as the dissolution trigger.

  3. a DD would mean more Greens so there is no chance of Rudd going for that.
    Although i despise Fielding – VSU – I am kind of glad that it is not just the Greens holding the balance as a single party of the far left holding the balance is not a fair house of review in my opinion

  4. Ok not to sound lazy or ignorant or demanding, but I don’t suppose you have any sample letters? IU’d love to do this but have no idea how to word it properly and no time to learn.
    Sorry again for the ignorance/laziness/demands. Jsut want to participate

  5. UT, I don’t see the problem if the Greens end up holding the balance of power as a truly leftist group – Labor and the Libs can always vote together to pass an issue if it has broad popular support. The Greens cannot greenlight any sort of legislation on their own after all: that’s what holding the balance of power means. This makes several times when you have commented negatively about the Greens as if holding the balance of power is the same holding majority power and oh dearie me the scary possibilities. It isn’t the same and I’m pretty sure you know full well that it isn’t, so what’s the point of the scaremongering?
    Good question. The Gay & Lesbian Rights site linked above has a good summary paragraph:

    At the federal level, lesbians and gay men are still not treated the same as heterosexuals. Whilst most states have adopted legislation that recognises same-sex de facto relationships as the same as heterosexual de facto relationships, no such legislation exists at a federal level. The lack of legal recognition has a real and daily impact on the lives of thousands of gay and lesbian Australians. In the federal legislative areas of superannuation, insurance, social security, immigration and taxation, the status of “spouse” is defined as heterosexual only, excluding same-sex couples from the rights and obligations held by heterosexual couples.

    You could probably use the statements in that as a base to draw on for a letter.

  6. UT- why on earth choose this topic, and Fielding, to express your resevations about a Greens balance of power?
    I don’t think the Greens should have unrepresentative influence in the Senate either, because no party should. But Tigtog has addressed the misconception that the Greens are now drunk with power in control.
    Why though, should that result in affirming Fielding, an overtly homophobic Senator who you don’t even like from an even more “fringe” party than the Greens?
    You’re entitled to dislike the Greens, obviously. There are supporters and opponents of GLBTI rights in the majors and Dems: take you pick. But framing people who really *hate* queers as a better model of balance, because of that fear, remains homophobic.

  7. I said i don’t like Fielding – VSU among other things – Just because i distrust some members of the Greens doesn’t mean that i trust or even like an extreme Christian having the power that Fielding has – In an ideal world it would be a Democrats-Greens-Xenophon balance of power

  8. VSU very much pales into insignificance next to FF’s anti-woman and anti-gay policies.
    Lauredhels last blog post..“Save Second Base!”: The Reaction responds

  9. This bill is a good first step, but doesn’t it really entrench discrimination. Sure, it looks like progress, but what it is doing is drawing a definite line beyond which GLB people cannot cross. In particular, they are denied marriage, any hint of ceremonies, IVF and adoption from a federal point of view.
    Sadly, both the ALP and Coalition are equally as bad as each other in holding onto this core bigotry.

  10. I’m hoping that the limitations of this bill are due to an attempt at the politics of the possible: without a Senate majority the Rudd government cannot pass comprehensive reforming legislation even if it wished to (and I agree, we’re not entirely sure that it does).
    The current bill is likely to get broad bipartisan support precisely because it is so limited. Without broad bipartisan support (making the opposition of Fielding and other socially conservative Senators irrelevant) then no reforms at all will be passed.
    With respect to ceremonies, I believe there’s nothing stopping same-sex couples going to a registered celebrant for a commitment ceremony in most if not all Australian states. Commitment ceremonies do not result in any altered legal status, but at least registered celebrants offer experience in conducting ceremonial events and can help make for a dignified and meaningful occasion of bearing witness to a loving partnership in front of the nearest and dearest.
    Here’s the blurb from an online register of celebrants:

    Only those Celebrants who are Commonwealth-authorised Marriage Celebrants (CMC) are legally permitted to celebrate marriages within Australia. Commonwealth-authorised Marriage Celebrants are appointed by the Attorney-General of Australia. Commonwealth-authorised Marriage Celebrants are indicated by the letters ’CMC’ following their name in the listings.
    Authorised CMCs and General Civil Celebrants may perform Same-sex Commitments, Renewal of Vows, Namings, Funerals and a wide variety of other ceremonies.
    General Celebrants are NOT Commonwealth-authorised and so, ARE NOT legally permitted to celebrate marriages.

  11. Useful info from jo commenting on my crosspost at Laughing Rodeo:

    In respect of contacting more sympathetic Coalition Senators from your state, check out the list of Liberal Senators who voted for (with their consciences) the 2006 – RU486 Bill, at Andrew Bartlett’s site.

  12. Hopefully this little step will make later steps easier. I can’t help thinking that we will all look back on this and wonder what the fuss was about though. May that time come soon.
    Mindys last blog post..Vale one of the Cool Pioneer Nerds

  13. Yesterday some students on campus were trying to get people to sign a petition to add gay marriage to the bill. I told them I wouldn’t sign, but I would sign a petition to get rid of the idea of marriage as a government-backed institution and replace it with civil unions for everyone. Marriage would then be available for those who wished to add some kind of church ceremony to the civilly-unioned selves. They were quite shocked by this idea, I think.
    Thanks for making the font bigger in the comments field. Muchus betterus! 🙂
    M-Hs last blog post..And another thing…

  14. “a DD would mean more Greens ” – why do you say that?
    Rebekkas last blog post..Small children are hilarious (provided they go away after a little while)

  15. I think civil unions/partner registrations for everybody is the most ethical and practical way to go as well – get rid of “married” as a legally recognised status entirely, leaving it as a religious tradition. Then those who have a religious view of marriage can have their partnerships blessed in church/temple/mosque, and the rest of us who want to celebrate a pair-bond commitment can have the bunfights of our choice.
    After all, we did the same with registering our offspring years ago – nobody confuses the act of registering a birth with a christening or other naming ritual – they’re two entirely separate aspects of welcoming a new life into the family. Everybody would become accustomed to a similar approach to formally recognising pair-bonds in quite short order: the bureaucratic requirements of registering a pair-bond kept totally separate from community ritual traditions of blessing and celebrating.
    The traditionalists won’t like it though.

  16. After all, we did the same with registering our offspring years ago – nobody confuses the act of registering a birth with a christening or other naming ritual – they’re two entirely separate aspects of welcoming a new life into the family.

    Hey, that’s an interesting comparison (and one I hadn’t seen drawn before). The ritual of a birth being attended by a registered doctor or midwife does have some impact on the birth registration. If the birth is attended by a Person of Substance, the paperwork all goes through without a hitch.
    If a woman has an unattended homebirth, however, she does have to jump through some hoops, including a statutory declaration (“Yes, Government, I really did see this baby come out of my vagina!”) and a certificate from a doctor.
    Lauredhels last blog post..BADD: The radical notion that people with disabilities are people, and Australia’s 2020 Summit

  17. If the birth is attended by a Person of Substance, the paperwork all goes through without a hitch.

    That was always the idea behind Royal births taking place in a room full of titled nobility. The birth had to be witnessed as definitely issuing from the Queen’s loins, otherwise who knew what rudely healthy peasant changeling might be foisted upon the throne?

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