Same Sex Marriage a controversial issues and is one that has been under constant debate for several years to whether it should be legalised. Currently, same sex marriage is prohibited in Australia under Marriage Act 1961 (cth). Over the course of 30 years, rights and recognition of same sex couples has increases dramatically as acceptance and views of society have changed making this such a contemporary issue. The rapid change in favor of same sex couples will back the prediction that same sex marriage will not be far way. Only recently has same sex couples been given recognition under the law. Before 1984, same sex couple were excluded from almost every law in Australia that accorded rights and responsibilities to people based upon their relationship and it wasn’t until the De Facto Relationship Act 1984 (NSW) was passed that non married couples have the same rights as married partners. A de facto relationship is couples that are not legally married but living together in a committed relationship. This act includes laws covering property division, maintenance, financial agreements and the superannuation. It was amended and renamed in 1999 to the Property (Relationship) Legislation Amendment Act 1999 (NSW). It reformed a large number of existing laws to include Same Sex Couples including family provision, intestacy, accident compensation and decision making during illness or after death. Same Sex relationships rights have continued to develop with the Miscellaneous Acts Amendment (Same Sex Relationships) Act 2008 (NSW) being passed, which provided female same sex parents the same legal rights as opposite-sex parents in regards of children. The introduction of the Adoption Act 2000 (NSW) is a prime example of this demonstrating same sex couples have the same right as married couples to adopt children. The Miscellaneous Acts Amendment (Same Sex Relationships) Act 2008 also amended pieces of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1997 (NSW) making it illegal to discriminated against same sex couples and must be treated the same as married couples. The Relationships Register Act 2010 (NSW) allowed same sex couples to register their relationship with the NSW registry of Births, Deaths and Marriage. Although same sex relationship rights have developed, marriage is still illegal. The Marriage Act 1961 (cth), states that marriage is strictly between “man and a woman” to the exclusion of all others”. It was only in 2004 that it specified this. The Howard government amended the Marriage Act in 2004 as the piece of legislation surrounding marriage previously was unclear. This caused conflict as it then came to question, what is defined as a “man” and a “female”? Individuals that were transsexual, heterosexual and hermaphrodites may be denied the right to marry. An example is the case Corbett v Corbett that won the right to marry her husband after she had a sex change. Previously, the gender on your birth certificate was your gender when you marry therefore it would have been a gay marriage. This case initiated law reform that stated ‘the gender you are on your wedding day is your gender’. Although this was a positive step forward in same sex couples rights, it is still found ineffective for many. Times are changing and so are the opinions of society. Today the majority of people support same sex marriage and the law must adapt to fit society’s expectations however it is not. In collation with these changes to the law, support for same sex marriage has risen also. In 2004, after the amendment of the Marriage Act, the Australian Marriage Equality Organisation conducted a public opinion poll. The results didn’t favour Same Sex marriage with only 38% supporting and 44% opposing. The other 18% were undecided, however, when they resurveyed Australia in 2010, 62% favoured, 33% opposed and 5% were undecided. This depicted the rise in support of same sex marriage over just 6 years and the push for reform. With the upcoming 2013 election approaching, the first debate of the federal election was held on the 10 of August. Same sex marriage was a topic point that was discussed. Kevin Rudd promised the Labour government would introduce a bill to legalise same sex marriage within 100 days if he was re-elected as Prime Minster. This is a promising turn for same sex marriages as it is certain to be passed if Kevin Rudd is elected. Lobbying groups have been a significant influence in the push for same sex marriage. They voice the opinions of the public and put spotlight on this issues and place it on the political agenda. An example is the Australian Marriage Equality (AME). It is a national, membership-based organisation working for equal marriage rights for all Australians regardless of their gender or sexuality. Their purpose is lobbying, advocacy, educating Australian and encouraging support for same sex marriage. They have been at the head of campaigning for marriage equality. It gains support and recognition from human right and government organisations such as the bureau of statistics and conducts research and polling surveys to show increasing support. Campaigns and protests have are another important contributor in the fight for same sex marriage. The ‘I DO’ campaign was run in the magazine, Marie Claire. Its purpose was to create awareness and highlight the ineffectiveness of same sex marriage not legalised as it doesn’t meet society’s values. It plays an important role in the push for reform as it displays the public’s opinions and the law must account for that. While lobby groups and campaigns have fought for the legalisation of same sex marriage, religious groups are fighting against it. Under religious beliefs, same sex marriage is seen to be a sin and is offending god. God created our first parents, Adam and Eve. A man and a woman whose sole purpose was procreate. ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.’” (Gen. 1:28-29). Children cannot be born with two parents of same sex therefore they are not following god's plan. They also believe that a child needs to be raise under guidance of both a mother and a father. As same sex marriage is a very controversial issue, it is a recurring topic in the media. It is an influential way of expressing opinions supporting both the opposing and supporting side of same sex marriage. Debates on television such as those held on Sunrise and TV Tonight, television interviews with celebrities and politicians and reality shows like Gay Weddings provoke through and influence your thoughts on gay marriages. For example, a debate between Gay rights activist Kerryn Phelps and the Christian Lobby's Jim Wallace broadcasted on Sunrise. It discussed both sides of same sex marriage which allowed viewers to come to their own conclusion about their opinions on the matter. The future of same sex marriage is positive as it is most likely going to be legalised in the next couple of years. The rights of same sex couples have developed quickly and it is only a matter of time before their marriage would be allowed. The current law is ineffective and it doesn’t reflect the public opinion however this isn’t due to lack of trying. Society wants the reform and they won’t stop pushing until they get it.
Brassil, B. &. (2011). Excel HSC Legal Studies. (S. cairns, Ed.) Glebe, Nsw, Australia: Vivienne Joannou.
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De facto relationships - Family Law Courts
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Same-sex Families - Legal Information Access Centre
Public Opinion: Nationally | Australian Marriage Equality
Marriage equality and public opinion - Australian Marriage Equality http://www.australianmarriageequality.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/AMEpollfactsheet@Jun11.pdf
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NSW set to back same-sex marriage - Sydney Morning Herald