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Media updates – marriage equality debate in Australia

April 17, 2016 Leave a comment

 

marriage-equality-concept-gay-rights-43089788There have a few media articles that I would draw your attention to. They really highlight the roles of NGO lobby groups as well as media in pushing and shaping public attitudes towards the issue of marriage equality, as well as changing or consolidating the stance of key MPs involved in the legislative process.

The first media article has to do with the Catholic Church in Australia lobbying several CEOs of major Australian firms to stop supporting marriage equality. (‘Church told gay CEOs at Qantas, SBS to stop supporting marriage equality’, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 April 2016). Interestingly, two of these CEOs are themselves gay. These firms included Qantas, Telstra and a major law firm called Maurice Blackburn. These CEOs have previously stated their support for marriage equality, with Telstra’s CEO stating that this is about “equality” for him.

Thus far, it appears the counter-lobbying by the Catholic Church might have worked, with Telstra deciding to step back from its public support for marriage equality, prompting threats of boycotts by some LGBTI activists. However, other telecommunication firms like Vodafone have stated their support for marriage equality.

Why is corporate support for this issue significant? First of all, major corporations are major employers.  Therefore, their corporate policies, including employment and employee management policies help shape social norms. This includes integration of anti- homophobia and anti-discrimination policies. In this sense, they are ANOTHER example of a non-government organisation playing a role in shaping public perceptions and by extension, law reforms.

This news, incidentally, can be read in comparison with news from North Carolina and Mississippi about major firms (e.g. Microsoft, Google, Apple, K-Mart) expressing opposition to new state laws that discriminate against lesbians, gays and transgender persons, with major firms stating that they would reconsider whether to invest in North Carolina and Mississippi. (‘Anti-Gay Laws Bring Backlash in Mississippi and North Carolina’, New York Times, 5 April 2016)

Secondly, for major public corporations to step into the political turf war that is marriage equality debate throws further light on this issue. It also underlines the role of media in facilitating public awareness and discussions on this issue.

Second media article is about Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison sharing a stage with a prominent anti-gay rights activist, Eric Metaxas, in an upcoming Australian Christian Lobby conference. (‘Scott Morrison to share Australian Christian Lobby stage with anti-gay extremists‘, Sydney Morning Herald, 16 April 2016).  Metaxas has made several controversial statements about the marriage equality lobby, including comparing them to the rise of Nazism in Germany.  This article underlines one of the key roles that lobby groups have played in this issue, namely to connect with key MPs who are involved in the legislative process.  The same, incidentally, can also be said for Australian Marriage Equality and their lobbying of key MPs like Senator Wong (ALP) and the PM Malcolm Turnbull (Lib), both of whom attended the 2016 Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras as supporters.

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‘Rudd rejects civil union’ (Sydney Star Observer, 28 April 2009)

gay coupleDespite the inclusion of same-sex couples under the umbrella of de-facto couples in the new federal legislation that took effect on March 2009, Rudd has firmly rejected any notion of legal recognition of same-sex marriage under his government.  This is despite the fact that recognition of same-sex marriages was one of the recommendations that came out from the 2020 summit.  Needlessly to say, the Sydney gay and lesbian community have been disappointed by this, as this article in the the Sydney Star Observer illustrates.

‘Rudd rejects civil union’ (Sydney Star Observer, 28 April 2009)

Rudd’s main argument for rejecting any notion of recognising homosexual marriages is that the widespread community perception remains that marriage is between a man and a woman for life.  However, this is not really the case according to a same-sex marriage advocacy group, Australian Marriage Equality.

Opinion polls consistently show that a majority of Australians support same-sex marriage, making a nonsense of the Government’s stated belief that its policy ‘reflects a widely held view in the community’”, AME spokesman Peter Furness said.

‘California upholds gay marriage ban’ (SMH, 27 May 2009)

This is a setback for advocates for same-sex marriage in America, though only time will tell what the implications might be.gay couple

‘California upholds gay marriage ban’ (SMH, 27 May 2009)

California’s Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a referendum that outlawed gay marriage but said 18,000 same-sex weddings carried out before the vote would remain legally valid.

Gay and lesbian activists had been seeking to overturn the results of the November referendum, which redefined marriage in California as being unions between men and women only.

Opponents said the referendum – known as Proposition 8 – was an illegal revision of the state’s constitution and said that the rights of minorities should not be vulnerable to a simple majority vote.

However, the California Supreme Court justices said in a 6-1 majority opinion that the referendum – which passed by a margin of 52.5 to 47.5 per cent – was legal and should be allowed to remain.

What is interesting from an Australian perspective is the use of referendum in this case.  In Australia, referendum has mostly been used for constitutional issues, or in two instances, on conscription.  Rudd has stated that the majority of people in Australia sees marriage as an union between a man and a woman.  One wonders if this can be tested through a referendum.

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‘A Gay-Marriage Solution: End Marriage?’ (Time, 16 March 2009)

May 17, 2009 1 comment

gay coupleThis is an interesting proposal to end the legal battles between the proponents of the recognition of same-sex marriages and its opponents that is currently raging in the United States.  

‘A Gay-Marriage Solution: End Marriage?’ (Time, 16 March 2009)

(According to) a paper published March 2 in the San Francisco Chronicle, two law professors from Pepperdine University issued a call to re-examine the role the government plays in marriage. The authors — one of whom voted for and one against Proposition 8, which ended gay marriage in California — say the best way out of the intractable legal wars over gay marriage is to take marriage out of the hands of the government altogether. 

What is fascinating is that there are proponents for this idea on both sides of the fence.  Perhaps part of the attraction of this solution is that it seems to satisfy the core concerns of both sides of the debate.  

Instead, give gay and straight couples alike the same license, a certificate confirming them as a family, and call it a civil union — anything, really, other than marriage. For people who feel the word marriage is important, the next stop after the courthouse could be the church, where they could bless their union with all the religious ceremony they wanted. Religions would lose nothing of their role in sanctioning the kinds of unions that they find in keeping with their tenets. And for nonbelievers and those who find the word marriageless important, the civil-union license issued by the state would be all they needed to unlock the benefits reserved in most states and in federal law for married couples.

If this goes through in America, expect it to cause legal ripples throughout the western world.