POLITICS

There Are Three Marriage Equality Bills In Parliament This Week

But they're all going to fail.

12/09/2016 10:04 AM AEST | Updated September 12, 2016 12:44
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There will be three -- THREE -- marriage equality bills introduced to the federal parliament this week. All three are almost certain to fail.

Malcolm Turnbull's cabinet will on Monday debate details of the proposed marriage equality plebiscite. On Tuesday, the discussion will move to a meeting of the wider government party room.

On the agenda will be deciding crucial details like the exact wording of the question which will be asked of the Australian people at the plebiscite, and whether the respective "yes" or "no" campaigns will get any sort of public funding for advertising to state their cases.

Turnbull is embroiled in more controversy on this last point particularly, with the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney claiming that the PM had promised that there would be public funding guaranteed for both sides of the debate. Turnbull is claiming he never made any such promise, but the controversy has drawn conservative MPs into the stoush and put more pressure on Turnbull on the issue; the likes of Tony Abbott and Kevin Andrews on Monday argued that public funding was necessary.

While the government remains committed to its plebiscite, most of the rest of the parliament is pushing for a standard vote on the issue. An extraordinary three marriage equality bills will be introduced this week; one from Labor, one from a group of crossbenchers including Greens Adam Bandt and independents Andrew Wilkie and Cathy McGowan, and another from firebrand Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm.

Labor leader Bill Shorten introduced his party's bill on Monday morning.

"In delaying marriage equality, we are not just falling behind the rest of the world – 21 countries who we consider our legal, cultural and social peers – have already moved ahead of us," Shorten told the chamber.

"We are falling short of our national sense of self – the country we want to see in the mirror, the Australia we tell our children to believe in. How can we call ourselves the land of the fair go if we discriminate against our citizens on the basis of who they are and who they love?"

Bandt also spoke on Monday morning to introduce the crossbench bill.

"Now that the bigots' plan for a wasteful and divisive plebiscite looks set to fail in the Senate, Malcolm Turnbull needs a Plan B to achieve marriage equality. This cross-party bill is the Plan B," he said.

"In the end, love will win. The question is how long we force loving couples to wait, how long we force LGBTIQ people to be less equal and have fewer rights than everyone else."

"If we all work together across the political spectrum, we have a real chance to pass marriage equality through Parliament sooner rather than later, without a divisive and wasteful plebiscite. If we all work together, wedding bells could be sounding before Christmas this year."

With the government's one-seat majority in the House of Representatives, all three bills are doomed to fail -- that is, unless we get a few government MPs to cross the floor in an equally extraordinary shift.

Labor has introduced a marriage bill several times but to no avail. In March, Labor MP Terri Butler made an impassioned plea for the parliament to be allowed a vote on the issue.

Leyonhjelm will introduce his bill at some point this week. He is calling it a "marriage equality circuit-breaker", with his bill to allow for same-sex marriage while also not obliging businesses to provide services to same-sex marriage ceremonies if they do not wish to -- the senator is pitching it as a bill "to keep cake-makers out of courts", after several incidents in the U.S. where bakeries were criticised for refusing to supply cakes for same-sex weddings.

"It will be easier for conservative politicians to sell the legalisation of same sex marriage to their constituents if they can explain that nobody will be forced to do anything," Leyonhjelm said in a statement.

"I have always argued that voting for same sex marriage is not about approval, but removing the government from people's private lives. Just as the government should not dictate the gender of who we can marry, it should also not allow others to impose their values.

"My Bill will ensure civil celebrants are in the same situation as religious celebrants in having no obligation to perform a marriage, and will exempt suppliers of wedding goods and services from the Sex Discrimination Act if they decline to deal with a marriage of which they do not approve."

Leyonhjelm called the cross-party bill "coercive legislation" which would lead to "show trials we have seen overseas where cake makers have been hauled before the courts for refusing to sell products to same sex couples".

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