By Calum Hendry. 23rd June 2016.
We have tried to provide an accurate summary of where the parties stand, but would advise that you also read more broadly and verify other sources of information before deciding who to vote for.
Marriage equality is an issue that speaks very loudly about who we are as society, how far we have come, and how far we have to go.
Opponents of marriage equality define marriage as a union between man and woman. They see marriage equality as an attack on the bedrock of the traditional family unit, religious freedom and social values that, they argue, have served us well for thousands of years.
Supporters of marriage equality see things differently. They say the definition of marriage should be broadened to all couples can marry, irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status. Anything less is discriminatory and contrary to the principle of equality before the law. They also argue that it is essential that we remove the major legal and social barriers that degrade the LGBTQI community, cause psychological harm and devalue the love they feel for their partners.
Where does Australia stand on this issue?
A significant majority of Australians support marriage equality - and have done so for a number of years.
Additionally, a recent survey found that marriage equality was one of the key issues influencing young voters in this election.
So, what are the policies of the major parties (and some of the smaller ones) on this issue?
Generally speaking, the Coalition is opposed to marriage equality.
However this isn’t true of all the Coalition members of Parliament. Malcolm Turnbull himself is a long time supporter of marriage equality and Warren Entsch, a member from Queensland, has played a vital role in spearheading the campaign for marriage equality within the Parliament.
At this stage, the Coalition is not taking a formal position whether to support or oppose marriage equality – their election policy instead is to hold a plebiscite to determine whether marriage equality should be legislated.
Malcolm Turnbull has supported the idea of a plebiscite to occur sometime near the end of 2016.
Plebiscite key facts:
A plebiscite is essentially a non-binding poll of the Australia public on an issue. It is said that the Government will pass laws allowing marriage equality if a majority of Australians votes for it[HC2] . If a majority votes against it, the Government will keep things the way they are.
No specific date has been proposed for when this might occur.
The idea of a plebiscite has been controversial for people on both sides of the debate.
Some MPs have announced they won’t be bound by the outcome, meaning they will vote for or against marriage equality irrespective of the wishes of the majority of Australians.
The idea of a plebiscite has also been criticised for being overly expensive - it is expected to cost between $160 million to $500 million - and allowing groups to vent homophobic views in the public debates leading up to it.
Be that as it may, a plebiscite can also be viewed as an expression of the people’s will.
Labor's official election policy is to support marriage equality and oppose the Coalition’s plebiscite. In a nutshell, Labor wants to pass laws allowing marriage equality within the first 100 days of the next parliament.
A majority - but not all – of Labor MPs support marriage equality. Under a Bill Shorten government, all MPs will be allowed a conscience vote (which means they can vote however they like and not as the Party tells them) in Parliament up until 2019. From 2019 onwards, all Labor MPs will be required to vote for marriage equality whether they like it or not.
Labor front bencher Penny Wong recently expressed that "heterosexual politicians fail to grasp the hatred gay and lesbian Australians will endure during a plebiscite on same-sex marriage".
The Greens' official election policy on marriage equality is to oppose the plebiscite and pass a Private Members Bill through Parliament that would remove discrimination from the Marriage Act and allow LGBTQI Australian couples to marry. It would also allow overseas LGBTQI marriages to be recognised in Australia. Unlike the two major parties, The Greens have advocated for marriage equality for over a decade and support for marriage equality within the Greens is unanimous.
Australian Equality Party:
The Australian Equality Party aims to provide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people and their families with a political voice. In terms of marriage equality, the party wants to amend the Marriage Act to allow all Australians to marry regardless of gender, sexual orientation or intersex status.
Family First Party:
The Family First Party strongly opposes same sex marriage. They define marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman and are committed to promoting policies that maintain the status quo.
The Coalition is not taking a formal policy for or against marriage equality policy to the election. If returned to government it will hold a national plebiscite to gauge public support for same sex marriage and most likely act on that sentiment if a majority approves.
Family First opposes same-sex marriage in all its forms.
The Labor party, the Greens and the Australian Equality Party all oppose the plebiscite and want to amend the Marriage Act and to allow marriage equality. While they might have different views on the best way to legislate the change, you can assured that a vote for one of these parties is a vote for marriage equality.
If there is a hung parliament, it's likely that some smaller parties such as the Nick Xenophon team and other independents could have a powerful voice in whether marriage equality becomes legalised. You can find out where the candidates in your area stand using this resource.