The Long Road to Legalizing Gay Marriage in Australia: An Essay

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Today’s society is ever-changing, with new demands being asked from the government regularly, due to this it is important that our government is able to meet and deal with these demands. One of these demands was same-sex marriage. Gay marriage was a law introduced into Australia in 2017, which allowed two people of the same gender to be legally bound through marriage. Previous to this law same-sex marriage was not recognized as legally binding because it did not fit within our 1961 Marriage Act. There was talk of the act being passed as early as 2012. Then in 2017 as many bills were getting closed, Malcolm Turnbull asked the ABS to conduct a survey which then led into the law getting legalized on the 7th of December, 2017 making it legal to marry the same gender in Australia.

Since the 2004 amendment towards the Marriage Act of 1961 which created the current definition of marriage, 23 bills dealing with marriage equality and or the acknowledgement of overseas same-sex marriages have been introduced into the federal parliament. The 23 bills were introduced by members of parliament who represented the Australian Democrats, the Australian Greens, the Australian Labor Party, the Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, the Liberal Democratic Party,the Liberal Party of Australia, the Nick Xenophon Team and by the Independents. Then a few years later in 2010, 2012 and 2013, 3 bills were brought to a vote in the senate with an additional one in 2012 in the house of representatives. These bills were however denied in the second reading stage. However, in 2015 Bill Shorten introduced the first cross-party bill of gay marriage with the Greens. This reignited the public interest causing protests which created tension between the public and parliament. Then in 2017 due to the tension and a lot of bills being passed Scott Morrison decided to hold a vote. After the vote came back saying that 61% of the Australian population that voted said that they wanted it to be legalized and after going through a parliamentary vote, the law was passed on the 7th of December 2017.

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The process of adjusting the amendment towards the Marriage Act of 1961 was a slow and painful procedure that was heavily influenced not only by members of parliament but also the public. Between 2010 to 2013, 4 bills were denied in the second reading causing the 1961 Marriage Amendment to remain the same. Then in August 2015, Bill Shorten introduced the first cross-party, same-sex, marriage bill. On the 19th of August 2015, the Marriage Equality Plebiscite Bill was introduced to the Senate. This was backed by the Greens and other members of the Senate crossbench, who would put forward a bill to ensure a fair question on marriage equality is put to the people no later than the next election. The bill, however, expired at the prorogation of the 44th Parliament. The bill then re-emerged on 14th of December 2016 in the House of Representatives and sought out for a compulsory national plebiscite. The question was ‘Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?’. The bill passed the lower house on the 20th of October but was denied at the second reading in the Senate on the 7th of November 2016. Then between 12 September and 7 November 2017, Malcolm Turnball decided to host a nationwide postal vote on whether the public believed that the law should be changed to allow gay marriage. The postal vote came back with the results stating that 61% of Australians wanted the law to be changed. Finally, on the 15th of November 2017, Senator Dean Smith introduced a bill on behalf of ‘8 cross parties’ a bill to amend the Marriage Act 1961. The bill was to redefine marriage as ‘a union of two people’. The bill passed the third reading on the 29th of November 2017 which meant it was the first time the bill was debated by another chamber. The bill was further introduced into the third reading stage in the ‘House’, on the 7th of December 2017 and received Royal Assent the following day.

The new amendment to the Marriage Act 1961 was seen to many as necessary, after many years of perseverance from both the public and the government. This was done, by allowing the public to vote for whether they believe the amendment should be changed. The passing of the bill ultimately modernized Australia even more.

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