Legislation to legalise same-sex marriage in Australia has been brought to parliament by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
The bill proposes changing the Marriage Act in part to describe marriage in Australia as: “the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”
If successful, the marriage equality bill would head-off the Coalition government’s planned plebiscite on the issue.
Speaking to parliament on Monday as he tabled the bill, Mr Shorten argued that MPs had a duty to legalise same-sex marriage as a right through a simple parliamentary vote and that the proposed plebiscite, which would not be binding on MPs regardless of the outcome, was uneccessary and risked dividing the nation.
“Today we can bring a new measure of hope and happiness to the lives of tens of thousands of Australians whose love has been denied equality under the law for too long,” he said as he introduced the bill.
“Why should the children of LGBTI Australians be denied the formal recognition of their parents’ relationship?”
“A plebiscite would represent a fundamental failure of this parliament to do its job,” he added.
Mr Shorten said that Australia was lagging behind the rest of the world on the issue of same-sex marriage, citing 21 comparable countries where same-sex marriage has already legalised.
As well as being uneccessary from a legal stand point, the Labor leader also raised fears that holding a plebiscite on mariage equality would provide a platform for the voices of hate.
“There is a real risk that LGBTI Australians will be subjected to a well-organised, well-funded campaign of vitriol and prejudice,” he argued.
“A ‘No’ campaign would be an emotional torment for gay teenagers and if one child commits suicide over the plebiscite, then that is one too many.”
During the same sitting, Greens MP Adam Bandt also tabled a bill to legalise same-sex marriage, with the support of independent MPs Cathy McGowan and Andrew Wilkie.
“I invite Liberal and Labor MPs again to join as co-sponsors of this bill to achieve marriage equality,” he told parliament.
“If we all work together, we have a real chance to pass marriage equality through Parliament sooner rather than later without a divisive and wasteful plebiscite.
“If we all work together, wedding bells could be sounding before Christmas this year.”
The two marriage equality bills were seconded.
As recently as just prior to the Federal Election in July, a poll found that 69% of voters supported a plebiscite vote on same-sex marriage as opposed to straight parliamentary vote.