“Gay rights are human rights.”
-Hillary Clinton (Former US Secretary of State)
In a momentous decision, the same-sex marriage bill was passed in the Australian Senate following a vote that went in favor of securing the rights of the members of the LGBTQ community. Sparking nationwide hopes for the community, the passing of the bill means Australia could soon join the countries that have legalized same-sex marriage.
Same-sex marriage bill in Australia
The same-sex marriage bill in Australia speaks about legalizing same-sex marriage in the country. According to an ABC report, Liberal senator Dean Smith defines marriage as “the union of two people to the exclusion of all others”. As is clear from the definition, the Liberal stance on the bill emphasizes on the right of humans to have a harmonious union without facing judgment or discrimination from others. Replacing the words ‘man’ and ‘woman’ from the earlier definition, the bill opens up new vista of hope for the LGBTQ community of the country.
At the debate for the same-sex marriage bill at the Senate a day earlier to the historic vote, Attorney-General George Brandis delivered a moving speech in favor of the legalization of same-sex marriage saying, “How you love is how God made you.” Taking a cue from him, many Liberal senators spoke from personal experiences during the debate for the legislation of the marriage equality bill, saying that they have grown up with gay and lesbian men and women and saw them suffer due to the prejudice and discrimination that was rife in the earlier days. This bill allows them to stand firmly beside all those who have been vocal for the rights of the LGBTQ community, as the legalization of same-sex marriage extends beyond a mere political move – it upholds the values of equality and inclusiveness in the social sphere too.
The Senate’s take on the bill
A total of 72 senators were eligible to take part in the historic vote, but 55 of them were present. Out of the 55, the Senate was divided into 43 senators voting for and 12 senators voting against the legalization of same-sex marriage in Australia. The Senate erupted in loud applause and cheers as the results of the vote were declared by Senator Scott Ryan, Senate President, and senators rose up from their seats, hugging and congratulating each other on the iconoclastic move. Amid a celebration of Australian democracy, many senators were overwhelmed with emotion as the passing of the bill in the Senate without any major alterations goes a long way to champion the rights of the LGBTQ community.
Factoring in ministers of religion, churches and civil celebrants
While all the amendments that allowed businesses to refuse to offer services for the marriages and civil celebrants the right to refuse to marry same-sex couples were rejected, some of the factors remained, including the religious take on the issue. The factor of religion and marriage of same-sex couples have been thus described in the bill.
- Minister of religion: Section 47a of the same-sex marriage bill states that the ministers of religion will have the right to refuse to marry same-sex couples if such marriage contradicts with their religious beliefs or that of the church.
- Churches: Churches and other religious institutions have the right to refuse access to their premises in it is being used for same-sex marriage and in case such marriage contradicts their religious beliefs and views.
- Civil celebrants: Civil celebrants, however, are not allowed to refuse to marry same-sex couples and will have to perform the formalities needed and cannot refuse, even on religious grounds.
The religious point of view has been uncontested all around the Senate, but the factor of civil celebrants faced major contentions with quite a few in favor of allowing them the right to refuse to marry same-sex couples on religious grounds or other. However, the call for such amendments was turned down, and the bill passed the Senate unaltered, ushering in a new era of democracy in Australia.
“The beauty of standing up for your rights is others see you standing and stand up as well.”
- Cassandra Duffy (American lifestyle columnist)
The same-sex marriage bill, passed at the Australian Senate, will now be up for debate at the House of Representatives for further amendments if any. The next session for the House of Representatives will be held next week in Canberra. While the nation awaits with bated breath, albeit divided over the issue, it is likely that the next session at the House of Representatives will majorly vote for the bill to be legislated. What this means for the LGBTQ community of the country is that the bill for marriage equality that champions their rights and legalises their right to get married in a civil ceremony may be passed before Christmas, spreading more cheers this festive season.
With a historic decision by the Senate on the marriage equality bill, Australia awaits the fate of marriage equality. The final vote at the House of Representatives session next week is thus going to be a red-letter day that marks a new dawn in the Australian legislative and political system that extends to the social realm.
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