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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5842

Same-Sex Relationships

Mr WILKIE (Denison) (14:43): My question is to the Prime Minister. Australians wanting to marry overseas need certificates of no impediment to marriage from the Australian government, but the government refuses to issue CNIs to same-sex couples seeking to marry in countries allowed same-sex marriage despite the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee recommending in 2009 that the government should do so and the understanding Australians overseas should comply with the laws of the country they are visiting. The ban on issuing CNIs to same-sex couples looks petty and mean spirited. Will you lift it?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:44): I thank the member for Denison for his question. He has asked me about the issuing of certificates of no impediment where an Australian citizen is getting married overseas. Of course, what a certificate of no impediment means is that there is no impediment to the recognition of that marriage under Australian law. Given that under Australian law through the Marriage Act a marriage is between a man and a woman, it would not be proper to issue a certificate of no impediment because in truth we do not have the mechanism under current law to recognise a same-sex marriage overseas. I understand that the question of same-sex marriage is a controversial one in the community. I have made my views very well known and the position of the government is also very well known. But I am under no illusion that members in this place and members of the Australian community more broadly have different views on the question of same-sex marriage. As is the way of things in our great Australian democracy, I am sure we will continue to debate that.

With the certificates of no impediment, it would only be proper to issue those if Australian law changed. Of course, my view and the view of the government is that there should be no change to Australian law in the terms of the Marriage Act. However, the government does have a proud track record of amending Commonwealth legislation to remove discrimination against same-sex couples. There are, by recollection, more than 80 pieces of legislation in which such discrimination has been removed. Such discrimination did impact directly upon the lives of people, for example with superannuation benefits where the benefits could transfer from one member of a couple to another. Those kinds of discrimination and impediment have been dealt with by the government. The Labor policy is to note that state jurisdictions can move to registers and recognitions of relationships and a number of jurisdictions have done so. Indeed the member for Denison represents in this place a state that has moved in that direction. I understand that there will probably be a continuing community debate. I think there will be some intensity in that debate about same-sex marriage, but it would not be appropriate to take the course that the member for Denison asks me to with Australian law and the Marriage Act defining marriage as between a man and a woman.