Wednesday November 15, 2017 is a day that will long be remembered as one of the most important days in Australia’s history. After a costly and at times toxic public vote, ABS chief statistician David Kalisch stood in front of the nation at a few minutes past 10am to reveal that 61.6% of Australian’s voted in favour of legalizing same sex marriage.
Glitter and confetti exploded into the air as gay anthems blasted out of speakers. Finally, after decades of discrimination, Australia had taken an important step in the direction of equality for members of the LGBTIQA+ community. As supporters of the “Yes” campaign celebrated, attention turned to what will happens next and how long Australia will have for the first legally recognized same sex marriage.
Throughout the campaign, Prime Minister Macolm Turnbull vowed to make same sex marriage a reality before Christmas if the nation voted in favour of marriage equality, and yesterday he reinforced that goal. Before the results of the vote were revealed, Western Australia Liberal Senator Dean Smith introduced a bill into the Senate legalizing same sex marriage which has cross party support from the Labor Party, The Greens and members of his own party. If Senator Smith‘s bill is passed in it’s current form, it will allow religious ministers to refuse to partake in a same sex wedding.
Despite the bill receiving cross party supports, conservative Senators have already voiced concern with Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who is a leader of the conservative side of the Liberal party, stating that the bill introduced by Senator Smith was a good start but required “additional religious protections”. This means that the bill in it’s current form will need to be debated in the Senate and could very well stall if the Senators who are anti-same sex marriage try to increase protection of discrimination based on religious grounds.
Starting to sound complicated? Well it’s about to get worse. Following the bill introduced by Senator Smith, Victorian Liberal Senator James Patterson released a bill drafted by conservative members of the Coalition which offers more protection for those who don’t wish to partake in a same sex marriage ceremony. This new bill, for example, would allow florists to refuse service to same sex couples on the ground of religious beliefs and even put up signs advertising their beliefs.
Despite this new bill receiving support from Conservative politicians, PM Malcolm Turnbull has slammed the bill, stating “I don’t believe Australians would welcome, and certainly the government does not, would not countenance making legal, discrimination that is illegal, that is unlawful today“. Other senior politicians from all parties have also voiced concern with Senator Patterson‘s bill, with critics concerned it may give way to further discrimination based on religious beliefs.
Whether it is the bill from Senator Smith or Senator Patterson that gets agreed upon, the next step is for the parliament to vote the bill into law. Now despite the Australian people voting in favor of marriage equality, politicians are not bound to vote in line with their constituents. The ABC surveyed all members of parliament in regards to how they would vote prior to the plebiscite results and seven members of parliament revealed they would vote No regardless of the outcome, including Corey Bernardi, Bob Katter and Kevin Andrews.
Even with the politicians who have either committed to vote no or are undecided, the ABC still believes the bill has clear majority support in both houses, with 76% in the lower house and 73% in the upper house. However with many of the 17 electorates that voted “No” represented by MP’s who were committed to voting “Yes”, the wording of the bill and the previously mentioned protections, getting legislation through Parliament may take longer than first expected.
With the limited number of sitting days before the Christmas and the possible opposition to Senator Dean Smith‘s bill, the Prime Minister’s push to have same sex marriage legal by the end of the year may be an optimistic promise. Yes, we will definitely have marriage equality in Australia, however the timeline for how and when it will be legal is still hazy. So for now just keep celebrating love and remember, marriage equality doesn’t mean the push for equality is done, this is just a start.