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Kirby: Marginal seats holding Australia back

Tue 2 Jun 2015 In: International News View at Wayback

Retired Justice Michael Kirby As momentum slowly builds behind the push to pass federal marriage equality legislation in Australia, a prominent gay Australian says his country's government has been slow to act due to fear of the effect on marginal seats. For over a year polls have been showing a clear majority of Australians and federal MPs support Marriage Equality but despite considerable pressure, including from his lesbian sister, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has historically avoided the issue. "The problem is that it's seen as a nettle by some politicians. In marginal seats which determine the outcome of national elections there is some evidence that there is not the same support that is in the general population," retired Justice Michael Kirby has told GayNZ.com Daily News. Kirby says those electorates are frequently on the outskirts of the larger population centres such as Sydney and Melbourne. Additionally, Kirby says, "there are a number of very powerful unionists who from the point of view of their own personal religion have opposed the change. And for the coalition there are a number of conservative politicians who have constituents who don't favour the change." But, he says, "there is no doubt that in due course Australia will adopt marriage equality and I certainly support that objective. Times are changing and this is a natural and proper development and increasingly a politically attractive one in Australia." Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a Rhodes Scholar, Kirby notes. "He's a very bright man and I believe he will see that people's views on this matter have changed as they have come to know more people who are lgbt and living in same-sex relationships." Kirby himself has been in a same-sex partnership for 46 years "and anyone who would deny proper recognition to such a relationship to the likes of Johan and me is a little bit weird in the head I think. Our relationship has been a great blessing in our life, and good for our mental and physical health." "We're not at all certain that we would take the plunge into marriage. We support Marriage equality but in some ways it might appear to downgrade what has gone before, the very long relationship which, at least according to our eyes, doesn't need a ceremony. But for young people a relationship encouraged and supported by a formal ceremony should be there if they want it." On a lighter note Kirby reflects that it might indeed be time he and his partner formally married. "We've been giving out wedding presents and enduring the confetti for 46 years, and we think it's probably about time we got our presents!" As pressure builds for the marriage equality law change Abbott has now indicated he will allow a free vote, or what is called a conscience vote in New Zealand, for Liberal MPs, as long as it is in response to a cross-party bill. The Greens, who have their own bill, have called for a cross-party meeting. And Australia's opposition leader yesterday put a same-sex marriage Bill before the House of Representatives.    

Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff

First published: Tuesday, 2nd June 2015 - 7:10am

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