Ok, I know I have written about this subject before, but in response to New York having made same-sex marriage legal, I just felt I needed to make further comment. I mean, come on – if New York State can do it, then surely Australia can as well. Now I know that might sound odd, because after all NY is so cool, hip and liberal, so of course it passed there. Well actually, the State of New York is not all that liberal. When you take into account the rather ‘traditional’ country areas, it’s actually a tad right. More importantly, it has a very influential Catholic Church and they (along with the powerful political conservatives) carry much influence. So as you can see, some striking similarity with Australia. Oh and not only that, but the issue of marriage equality is in the hands of these legislators, not judges, which is the same as Australia (more’s the pity).
What is encouraging, and something I absolutely agree with, is that in New York they rejected having a “compromise” in that they rejected civil unions and went straight for marriage. Several studies have now clearly demonstrated that civil union schemes are unsuccessful in providing same-sex couples with full social recognition (and in some places legal recognition). The time for “intermediary steps” to full equality is in the past and same-sex marriage should be the focus for debate here in Australia. Those at a Federal level who offer civil unions in the hope that this will end the debate, are thankfully mistaken.
As I have touched on before, religious groups make a big song and dance about the issue and do a great job of muddying the waters, trying to make it a ‘religious’ debate rather than one of ‘legal equality’. One of the main obstacles to reform in NY was the ultimatum from religious organisations for legal immunity if they refused to marry same-sex couples, refused services at faith-based child and welfare agencies, or even refused to rent them venues for wedding receptions. However, these exemptions already exist in Australian law, NOT that I agree with them, particularly if the organisations in question are getting tax-payer funding, which most do but that is a whole other matter…. . No religious celebrant in Australia can be forced to marry someone against their wishes. Churches have exemptions under marital status in federal law and sexual orientation in state law. So as far as I can see, these organizations already have all the exemptions they require, so butt out will you.