: NSW Upper House votes down marriage equality legislation

NSW Upper House votes down marriage equality legislation

Elyse Methven
New South Wales

On 14 November 2013, the Same-Sex Marriage Bill 2013 (NSW) (‘the Bill’) was defeated in the New South Wales Legislative Council by a vote of 21 to 19. The Bill provided for two adults of the same sex to be eligible to be ‘same-sex married’, if at least one of those adults ordinarily resided in NSW. The Bill also contained a clause so that ministers of religion would not be bound to solemnise same-sex marriages.

Politicians were allowed a conscience vote, with a number of Coalition and Labor members voting on each side of the Chamber. Penny Sharpe, who introduced the Bill, argued that the legislation would ‘remove the last vestiges of discrimination against gay and lesbian citizens’. Many who voted against the Bill questioned its constitutionality, and Premier Barry O’Farrell issued a statement in which he confirmed his support for marriage equality, but considered it to be a federal issue. Members of the Christian Democrat Party unanimously rejected the Bill.

Since then, the High Court has handed down the decision of Commonwealth v Australian Capital Territory [2013] HCA 55, in which it unanimously declared similar legislation, passed by the ACT government to be invalid.

Recent studies suggest that a majority of Australians support marriage equality. Post the High Court’s decision, those Australians must turn (with little optimism) to a federal conservative government that has thus far steadfastly rebuffed calls to legalise same-sex marriage.

ELYSE METHVEN is a PhD student and Associate Lecturer at the UTS: Faculty of Law.

(2014) 39(1) AltLJ 62
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