Gay Marriage Legislation Introduced in Australian Parliament

There are currently two bills before the Australian parliament that aim to legalize same-sex marriage and redefine marriage between a man and a woman.

The bills are quite similar concerning the issue they were written to address. The legislation would remove the current ban on same-sex marriages while allowing religious institutions the right to refuse to perform ceremonies not in line with their teachings.

Adam Bandt, a lawmaker from the left-leaning Greens party which is a coalition partner in the minority government, introduced the first bill.

The second was introduced by a Labor party lawmaker Stephen Jones only few weeks after the ruling party lifted its opposition to same-sex unions.

The Greens party has long called for legal recognition of gay marriage in Australia, while the major political parties have strongly opposed it. Most commentators suggest that a majority of people in the country would oppose such a change to the traditional definition of marriage.

"We know that as things stand, if either of these bills is put to a vote now, we know it will fail," Bandt said.

Australian law was amended in 2004 to clearly define that a union between a man and a woman is the only union that can be legally recognized as marriage. There is no schedule that has been set for a vote on either bill that would lift that ban.

Liberal lawmaker Alex Hawke, who opposes gay marriage, said Monday that the issue is not about human rights, especially due to the fact that same-sex couples face little or no discrimination under federal law and are equally entitled for all pension and health benefits available to everyone else.

"We're talking about a radical proposal to undermine a fundamental social institution that has been the basis of our society for thousands of years," Hawke told Parliament.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard who also opposes gay marriage made clear that members of her conservative Liberal-National coalition party would be expected to uphold the current definition of marriage if a vote is called.

"Our position is clear. We believe that a marriage is between a man and a woman and that's the way the Coalition will be voting," said Liberal-National coalition party member Joe Hockey.

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