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Australia takes a big step toward marriage equality

This week, Australia took a big step toward legalizing same-sex marriage, with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten introducing a bill to Federal Parliament to allow “two people” to marry, rather than “a man and a woman.” 

In a ten-minute speech introducing the bill, Shorten said:

When someone has found not just another person they can live with, but a person they can’t live without, then they should have the same right to the true qualities of a bond that runs deeper than any law.

The same joy and sacrifice. The same care and compassion. The same rights and responsibilities. And we say to all young gay people: we are proud of you, for who you are. You belong. We say to you, you have a right to the same hopes, dreams and opportunities as every other Australian including the right to marry the person you love.

In removing discrimination from our country’s laws, we strive to eliminate prejudice from our people’s lives.

Let’s be honest. Casual, unthinking discrimination and deliberate, malicious homophobia alike, are still far too common in our conversations. In our schoolyards, our workplaces and our sporting clubs … and even, occasionally, our parliament too.

He went on to talk about how homophobia affects mental health, and expressed a desire that Australia fall no farther behind the many countries that have already made marriage equality a reality – including our neighbor and cultural cousin New Zealand. You can read a full transcript here.

Debate on the bill has been adjourned until the Australian spring (northern hemisphere fall), and Shorten called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to allow the members of his party a conscience vote – that is, to vote as they please even if it’s in conflict with the Coalition party’s line, which is against marriage equality. The Prime Minister himself is against same-sex marriage, but that doesn’t mean all members of his party are.

Some in Shorten’s Labor Party, notably his deputy, Tanya Plibersek, have called for a binding vote within the party – that is, for all members to vote as one. Marriage Equality AU, a leader in the marriage equality fight, expressed their disappointment that Shorten hasn’t pushed for a binding vote, saying that he’s quibbling over process instead of getting things done. “It is disappointing that Bill Shorten doesn’t support a binding vote,” the organization said via a press release this week, “because that means he’s happy with a double standard that says Labor votes as one on all equality issues except marriage equality.”

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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