Scotland and New Zealand move on marriage equality
Marriage equality advocates claim Australians may feel a little ashamed of their leaders today with New Zealand’s Parliament soon set to vote on same-sex marriage laws and the Scottish Government announcing it too will press on with plans to legislate for same-sex marriage.
Marriage equality will be debated in New Zealand in coming weeks after a bill, submitted by Labour MP Louisa Wall, was one of five bills drawn from the Members Bill Ballot this week.
While New Zealand’s Marriage Act 1955 does not define marriage as solely between a man and a woman, other couples have never been able to receive a marriage licence.
Wall’s ‘Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill’ will ensure that marriage is a union of two people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
The bill has a good chance at passing with all 14 Green MPs to vote in support while most of Labour’s 34 members in Parliament are expected to vote in favour of the reform.
New Zealand’s Conservative Prime Minister, John Key, has also given his personal backing to marriage equality but has insisted amending marriage laws are not a big concern for his government.
Green Party MP Kevin Hague suggested “the time had come” for gay marriage in New Zealand.
“I think John Key’s support is quite important because within the National Party caucus that is effectively the green light for people who support the bill to be able to vote for it,” Hague said.
In Scotland overnight, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the Scottish Government would continue with plans to legalise same-sex marriage by as early as 2015 while allowing for individual churches to decide whether to offer the service.
“It is the intention of the Scottish government to bring forward legislation to legalise same-sex marriage. We believe that in a country that aspires to be an equal and tolerant society, as we do in Scotland, then this is the right thing to do,” she said.
“However, we recognise and respect the concerns that some people have expressed, in particular the concerns that have been expressed by the churches, and we’re determined the legislation we bring forward will be accompanied by protection for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.”
Those reassurances have not been enough to placate the Catholic Church with a spokesperson suggesting the Scottish Government was “embarking on a dangerous social experiment on a massive scale”.
Australian Marriage Equality national convener, Alex Greenwich, said Australia was in further danger of being left behind on the issue by other nations which it shared significant links with.
“According to the latest census figures over 1,300 Aussie couples have already flown as far as the Netherlands and Norway to get married. Far more Australians would be prepared to make the three hour trip to New Zealand to marry,” he said.
“The Scottish and NZ initiatives on marriage equality send a strong message to the Australian Parliament that civil unions, which have been in place for several years in both countries, have failed to provide same-sex couples with full legal and social equality and are a failed experiment Australia should not replicate.”