Same-sex marriage has been on the political agenda in Australia for several years, as part of the broader debate about the legal recognition of same-sex relationships.
The expansion of legal rights and protections afforded to same-sex couples in Australia is well developed at both federal and state level. For example, legislation now exists in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, and the Australian Capital Territory that provides for the legal recognition of relationships, including same-sex unions.
At the federal level, in 2008 and 2009, there was a wide-ranging suite of reforms to provide equal entitlements and responsibilities for same-sex couples in areas such as social security, employment, taxation and superannuation. However, there remains one significant area of difference between the treatment of same-sex and heterosexual relationships, and that is in relation to the institution of marriage.
Now, Australians have had the opportunity to vote on the issue of same-sex marriage in Australia via a postal survey since September 12. The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates it has received 9.2 million (57.5 percent) of the 16 million survey forms since the ballot on whether people can marry who they love was issued two weeks ago. Another poll commissioned by the equality campaign showed Australian women as leading the way in supporting a YES vote.
That poll showed almost eight in ten women aged 25 to 44 are voting YES in the marriage equality postal survey.
Rita Verma, who is a well-known Law lecturer in Melbourne, is of the opinion, that, although it is good that many people have cast their vote in this matter, yet she strongly believes that holding a postal survey was nothing more than a waste of $122 million dollars.
“For the current government it’s a sensitive issue because the religious body has influence over them. That’s why the government does not want to take responsibility for making it into law and is merely buying time and wasting money.”
Rita Verma believes marriage equality is a human rights issue and should have been resolved in parliament itself.
“No one else has the right to decide whether two consenting adults should be able to marry or not.”
Speaking about the potential outcomes of the plebiscite, Ms Verma stated that if the vote results are ‘yes’ then a bill will be presented in parliament for a parliamentary vote and if passed, will be made in to a law. If the vote result is ‘No’, then the matter is closed then and there. However, she mentioned, that the matter will be put aside only for as long as this government is in power. If, and when Labour comes into power, there are chances that this issue will be raised again and could become a law then.
24 countries in the world have made same sex marriage legal for their citizens and Australia could be the 25th, if the vote returns a positive outcome.
Although the same sex couples are given the same rights as de facto couples, yet, there is a still a little disparity between the heterosexual couples and same sex couples. Same sex couples cannot legally get married in Australia. For this reason, Ms Verma states that this is a human rights issue.
“When there are two consenting adults who love each other and are committed, they should be allowed to marry just like any heterosexual couple in Australia. This matter is about fairness, about equality.”
Key dates regarding same sex marriage postal survey are as follows:
Thursday, 24 August 2017 (midnight local time) - The Commonwealth Electoral Roll closed for new enrolments or changes to enrolments for this survey.
Tuesday, 12 September 2017 - Mailing of forms and collection begins.
Monday, 25 September 2017- All survey packages (which have a staggered delivery schedule) should be received by this date. Please do not contact the ABS until after the 25 September if you have not received your form in the mail. Telephone and online response options open for people who cannot complete the paper survey. Survey forms available for collection in capital city and regional locations.
Friday, 20 October 2017 (6pm local time) - Final day for requesting or picking up replacement survey forms, or for requesting a Secure Access Code to access telephone and online response options.
Friday, 27 October 2017 - Please mail your form back to the ABS by this date to make sure it counts.
Tuesday, 7 November 2017 (6pm local time) - The survey closes. If your survey is received after this, it will not be counted.
Wednesday, 15 November 2017 - Survey results published on the ABS website. The Australian Statistician will publish a statement on the quality and integrity of the survey.
To contribute to this discussion, you can email at Preeti.firstname.lastname@example.org
With the postal surveys reaching our post boxes and same sex marriage debate reaching new heights, SBS Punjabi looks at the opinions of both sides of the debate in the Indian community.