In America, so far, the battle for marriage equality ‘seems’ to have been won. That of course depends on the current Fascist state of Government we find ourselves in now. There are still leading nations, that continue that fight, one being Australia.
The Turnbull government (a coalition of the center-right Liberal Party and slightly further-right-but-mostly-rural National Party) have been debating marriage equality and have launched something called a postal-plebiscite. Why is this a Big Complicated Deal? Unlike in the U.S., the devil lies in the details.
Before 2004, the Marriage Act (1961) of Australia did not take note of gender when establishing the federal definition of marriage. In 2004, long term Liberal Prime Minister John Howard passed the amendment to the Marriage Act with the express purpose of ‘[ensuring] that same sex marriages are not recognized as marriage in Australia’. At the time, no major Australian political party endorsed marriage equality, and no party blocked passage of the bill.
Federally, there have been no major attempts to revisit the issue until this year, despite growing popular support. In 2011, the Australian Capital Territory legislated marriage equality but a year later, the Australian High Court found the Territory’s law inconsistent with Federal law, therefore unconstitutional. The couples that had been married in the Territory had their marriages annulled, though the Territory later passed a Civil Unions Act. In 2012, the state Australian Capital Territory legislated marriage equality but a year later, the Australian High Court found the Territory’s law inconsistent with Federal law, therefore unconstitutional. The couples that had been married in the Territory had their marriages annulled, though the Territory later passed a Civil Unions Act. In 2012, the state of Tasmania (the little one down the bottom) passed a bill in its lower house to legalize marriage equality, but it was rejected by the upper house. Between 2004 and the present, the political and social ground has shifted immensely.
Now the Australian Family Association and the National Civic Council attacks, as Australia carries out its postal survey on same-sex marriage. The fear tactic of a “transgender marriage” has been raised by some anti-LGBTI groups, as well as former Labor leader Mark Latham. which are very much opposed to same-sex marriage, have warned against allowing any two consenting adults to marry, claiming it will lead to changes in other laws.¹
Meanwhile, according to Buzzfeed: Latham wrote an opinion piece in The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday saying he supports marriage for straight and gay couples, but will vote “no” in a survey that would allow it for everyone. So, will a “yes” vote in the postal survey allow all Australian couples to marry, or not? Here’s some information: The question Australian’s will tick “yes” or “no” to in the postal survey later this year is: “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” But a “yes” vote won’t automatically change the law — the parliament still needs to pass a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. And it’s the wording of this bill that will determine who can and can’t marry in Australia, not the postal survey itself.
On Australia’s ABC TV’s Q&A on Monday night, attorney-general George Brandis said there were several possible models for that bill — the “most high profile” being senator Dean Smith’s, released ahead of the Liberal party room meeting that brought us the postal survey earlier this month. Smith’s bill, and the one released by Brandis in conjunction with the plebiscite legislation last year, both propose changing the Marriage Act in the same way: replacing the words “a man and a woman” with “two people”.
This would change the definition of marriage in the act to: “Marriage means the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”. This would mean any two consenting adults in Australia would have the right to marry. It might be a straight man and woman; a bisexual woman and a lesbian woman; two gay men; a transgender woman and a straight man; a non-binary person and a lesbian woman. And so on.
And while it’s not guaranteed that any legislation passed by the Australian parliament in the event of a “yes” vote will be worded in the exact same way, it is fairly likely that the “two people” approach will prevail. Why? Because every bill put to the parliament in the past 10 years has taken this approach, plus earlier this year a bipartisan Senate committee found it was the most appropriate wording.
So, that’s what we know so far. The rest is up to their parliament, in the event of a “yes” vote.
But some groups already in opposition to same-sex marriage have wielded the notion of “transgender marriage” as a tool in the debate.
A few days after the postal survey was announced earlier this month, the Australian Family Association sent out an email to supporters titled, “It’s not same-sex marriage, it’s transgender marriage”.
The email makes the case that the “two people” change to the Marriage Act is not “same-sex marriage”, but “transgender marriage”. According to the AFA, amending the Marriage Act to read “two people” would mean transgender sex and relationships education would be enforced in Australian schools. (There is no legal basis for this claim.)²
The email also referenced a list of gender identities on blogging site Tumblr.
Confused? That’s pretty much the tactic of the anti-lgbt groups. How will this affect Australian transgender couples? A couple who has been married for four decades, may be forced to divorce because Australia’s marriage laws, because the law won’t recognize that the husband is transgender.
A transgender woman who has been married to her wife for 30 years, will now have to get a divorce if she wants to change her gender on her birth certificate. Janet and Penny Whetton, who met and fell in love when they were students, lived as assigned male and wife for the first 12 years of their marriage.
But after two children together, Penny was finally able to reveal to her wife that she was transgender and started the transition.
Some people are aware that transgender individuals are often able to enter into a heterosexual marriage after undergoing sex-reassignment. What may be less well-known, however, is that a transgender person may also be married to a person of the same sex. That situation arises, for example, when one of the spouses in a heterosexual marriage comes out as transsexual and transitions within the marriage. If the couple chooses to stay together, as many do, the result is a legal marriage in which both spouses are male or female. This would complicate matters even further with the wording of the law if passed with a no vote.
Outrage and protest have risen, and rivaled the political divisions we have witnessed here in America. That climate has led to a viral video, led by world-wide celebrities asking for re-tweets of an outspoken, next generation, human rights advocate.
SHARE AND RETWEET THIS LIL GUY
— Oprah Winfrey 215K✴ (@oprah_winfrey01) August 28, 2017
This viral video was originally found by TMPlanet @ Oprah Winfrey 215K
@oprah_winfrey01 Aug 27 @Asotaholic with source appearing to be STOP-Homophobia.com @WipeHomophobia and Stephen Amell@StephenAmell ³
- Buzzfeed: An Anti-LGBTI Group Is Asking People To Email McDonald’s About “Transgender Marriage”
- A Brief History of the Marriage Equality Debate in Australia
- Stephen Amell @StephenAmell
- USA: Transgender People and Marriage: The Importance of Legal Planning