As Washington State's Governor signed same-sex marriage into law in the U.S., not one but TWO separate Bills were introduced in federal parliament in Canberra on Monday.
The first of these was from the Australian Greens member of the lower house, Adam Bandt, with the support of independent member Andrew Wilkie.
Labor's Stephen Jones introduced a similar private member's Bill. What this double-barrelled approach will achieve is not clear at this stage.
Aware of opposition from church groups, the Jones version states that ministers of religion would be under no obligation "to solemnise a marriage where the parties to that marriage are of the same sex''.
"This provision will ensure that the principles of religion and religious freedom is maintained when it comes to the laws of marriage in Australia,'' Mr Jones said.
Wilkie also moved a motion asking politicians to make sure that any amendments to the Marriage Act would not force churches to marry same-sex couples, so both Bills contain these protections for the faithful.
Debate was adjourned after the tabling of the bills and it could be months before they are debated in Parliament.
A week ago, the Greens announced they will move for a Senate inquiry into marriage equality, to investigate Senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s 2010 Bill. Gay News Network reports that marriage equality advocates have welcomed the move as a means to help build up support on the issue before a private member’s bill on marriage equality is voted on by MPs later in the year.
Speaking to reporters in Canberra, Hanson-Young said that there was a good chance that Australians would be celebrating marriage equality by the end of 2012.
“We know that there are some people who still don’t understand or don’t agree with the idea of removing this type of discrimination,” Hanson-Young said. “I am absolutely optimistic that we have a very good chance by the end of this year to be able to look back and say, ‘We did it’.”
National spokesperson for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Shelley Argent, said the inquiry would provide an opportunity for the “many thousands” of parents of gay sons and daughters to have their voices heard. Argent urges people interested in supporting the Senate hearing to make submissions by April 2nd.
Those people wishing to take the simplest option may forward their letters and statements of support through PFLAG.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgSubmissions can be quite simple, stating why equality is so important to you, and you need to include name and address.
“We can give our children everything they need in life, but only the Government can give them equality,” Argent said.
Meanwhile, on Valentine's Day, comedian Magda Szubanski has come out passionately in support of the cause, outing herself in the process.