Like Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott, Julia Gillard believes only Australians with opposite-sex partners should be allowed to marry.
This will be deeply disappointing to the many Australians who believe same-sex couples should have the same right. It is particularly frustrating at a time when same-sex marriages are allowed in an increasing number of places overseas.
In the last few weeks Portugal, Mexico City and Iceland have joined Holland, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Sweden, Norway and six US states from Massachusetts to Iowa in allowing same-sex couples to marry. The number of places where same-sex marriages are either soon to be allowed or are already recognised from elsewhere is even larger and more diverse, ranging from Argentina through to Slovenia and Israel to Nepal.
In the world cup of marriage equality, Australia hasn’t even made the first round.
Why is this? If Catholic Portugal, mid-west Iowa and conflict-ridden South Africa can allow same-sex marriages, why not relatively secular, progressive and relaxed Australia?
My response is that we should look to these other places to understand why we are falling behind.
Broad popular support isn’t the problem. Polls show a relatively-high 60 per cent of Australians believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry with a majority of both Labor and Liberal voters endorsing reform. Interest among same-sex partners is also not an issue. Eighty per cent of gay and lesbian Australians believe they should have the choice to marry their same-sex partner. A majority would marry if they could.
The culprit is often identified as the religious right, particularly Pentecostal Pastors who make over-reaching claims about the influence of their mega-churches in marginal seats, and Catholic bishops who make even more audacious claims on the consciences of Catholics in both major parties.
But I suspect a deeper problem is the myth that camouflages this power: the wide-spread conceit that Australian politics is not heavily influenced by religion because its people aren’t.
When Christian Lobby chief, Jim Wallace, claimed Federal Government opposition to marriage equality was due to Kevin Rudd’s “personal faith”, not one journalist felt this was important enough to ask Rudd himself.
Perhaps Portugal, Spain and Mexico allow same-sex marriages not despite their overwhelming Catholicism but because the traditional dominance of the Church leaves them with a clearer understanding of where the line between civil law and religion should be drawn.
Other places that allow same-sex marriages also have lessons to teach.
Rodney Croome will make the case for same-sex marriage at Lunchbox/Soapbox at the Wheeler Centre on July 8 (today) at 12.45pm, further information is available at wheelercentre.com.
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