TV & Radio
Push to legalise gay marriage
By Erin O'Dwyer
January 1, 2006 Sydney Morning Herald
Home is where the hearts should be joined
GAY rights activists will seize on Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to push for legal recognition of same-sex marriages.
David Scamell, of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, said the organisation would conduct a landmark survey of gay and lesbian couples over the next six months to gauge support for civil unions and same-sex marriages.
The lobby plans to meet federal politicians, capitalising on a swell of support from the Liberal back bench, to urge Australians to follow Britain's lead in recognising same-sex relationships.
Mr Scamell said that, although the community was divided on whether legal recognition of same-sex relationships should be via a civil union or traditional marriage, support for equal legal rights was widespread.
The issue will gain momentum next month, as 10,000 pink hearts are planted in Sydney's Victoria Park ahead of Fair Day on February 19 and the Mardi Gras Parade on March 4.
"We plan on making it a major issue," Mr Scamell said.
Last month Britain became the latest country to allow same-sex civil unions. The laws allowed entertainer Elton John to marry his long-time love David Furnish, and thousands of gay and lesbian couples are expected to follow suit this year.
In Australia, the ACT is expected to legislate for civil unions this year while in Tasmania same-sex couples can register their relationships and access a legal framework of protections.
But Rod Swift, of the Australian Coalition for Equality, said Australia was moving in the opposite direction to Britain and New Zealand - which recognised same-sex civil unions early last year.
Mr Swift said that although progress had been made under state laws - particularly regarding wills and property division - there had been very little advancement regarding federal taxation and superannuation laws.
"The debate comes down to people's real day-to-day lives," Mr Swift said.
"The best solution is to resolve the tension between state and federal laws, and have one unitary system of civil unions where an existing same-sex relationship will be recognised by all states and territories."
Prime Minister John Howard has ruled out recognising gay marriages, despite a push by Liberal backbenchers Warren Entsch, Mal Washer, Judi Moylan and Petro Georgiou.
This puts Australia behind countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada and South Africa, where same-sex marriages are legal.
Same-sex civil unions are recognised in Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, New Zealand, Britain and seven US states.
In NSW same-sex couples have won virtually the same rights as de facto couples. But gay rights activists want equality in areas such as federal workers' compensation, immigration, welfare payments and adoption.
They also want the right to publicly celebrate their love and commitment.
Source: The Sun-Herald