The ACT government has introduced legislation into the territory’s Assembly to provide for same sex marriage. Unsurprisingly, when not distracted by plans to Defend Freedom and re-introduce the title of QC, Attorney-General George Brandis QC has been asked by Tony Abbott to look into the constitutionality of this bill, presumably with an eye to annulling it. Since legislation was enacted in 2011, any overturning of ACT law would take a vote of both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament. Meanwhile, the Australian Christian Lobby is insisting that voters don’t want marriage equality prioritised.
Well, parliaments can walk and chew gum at the time, I always think. The interesting thing about the marriage equality movement is that it’s largely led from civil society. John Howard probably kicked it off (ironically) by amending the Marriage Act in 2004. A few too many people might have heard celebrants intone “marriage is between a man and a woman” (as required by law) at a few too many marriage ceremonies. Wedges are capable of turning. Proverbially, most pollies don’t want to touch “social issues” with a bargepole. Support can be diffuse, but opposition is often strong and concentrated.
Social media campaigns for marriage equality are not going away anytime soon, though.
Of course, some Labor MPs who have been vocal in support of same sex equality have increased their margins. Graham Perett for one. And some Liberal MPs, Teresa Gambaro for one, shifted their position on same sex marriage during the election campaign in the face of significant pressure. Other Liberal MPs have made promises to “raise the issue in the party room”.
No doubt Mr Abbott has no intention of allowing a bill to be brought before the House. But ACT or no ACT, he cannot control the Senate.
There’s been some acute analysis of Tony’s cabinet making (see Tim Dunlop and Andrew Elder). I think his assumption of the portfolio of Minister for Women’s Affairs (what happened to “the status of women”?) is both deliberate and reflects his real ignorance of how much has shifted so quickly since the Howard Years. The same goes for the Consecration of the Bishops.
He wants to both dog whistle and marginalise. (But see Andie Fox for a different view on his ministerial arrangements.)
What happens if you want to fight a Culture War and the culture has changed on you?