Charles Richardson writes:
Last month, as I commented at the time, Britain gave an object
lesson in how to handle the “gay marriage” controversy. Its “civil
legislation allows gay couples to marry in all but name. Australia, in
the meantime, is demonstrating how not to deal with the issue.
First there was the 2004 amendment to the Marriage Act,
specifying that “‘marriage’ means the union of a man and a woman
to the exclusion of all others,” and ruling out the recognition in
Australia of gay marriages celebrated overseas. Since the government
admitted that this did not change the existing law, it amounted to
a purely gratuitous insult to same-sex couples.
Now, as reported in Saturday’s Age,
the government is also doing what it can to prevent Australians from
entering such marriages overseas. Many countries require proof that
foreign nationals wishing to marry there are legally able to – for
example, that they are not already married to someone else – and the
home government does this by issuing a “Certificate of No Impediment to
Marriage.” But attorney-general Philip Ruddock confirmed that the
government will not do this for same-sex couples.
A government spokeswoman said that “one purpose of the certificates was
to certify a proposed marriage would be valid in Australia.” That’s
quite true, but that could easily be taken care of by just adding a
note to that effect – there’s no reason to refuse the certificate. The
effect of the policy is to create additional obstacles just for the
sake of it.
Not that you have to be gay to fall foul of Ruddock’s department. The previous week it was reported
that even heterosexual marriages have to stick to traditional forms:
“In a series of edicts to civil celebrants that overturn at least 30
years of accepted practice, the Attorney-General’s Department insists
couples must exchange vows only as “husband” and “wife.” Celebrants
must also remind everyone that “marriage, according to law in
Australia, is the union of a man and a woman.”