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Jun 14, 2011

The Gillard government’s anti-gay marriage policy goes global

As well as not allowing same-sex couples to marry in Australia, the Gillard Government does its best to block Australians from entering same-sex marriages overseas, writes Rodney Croome.

As well as not allowing same-sex couples to marry in Australia, the Gillard government does its best to block Australians from entering same-sex marriages overseas.

It does this by refusing to issue same-sex partners with the key document they need to marry in another country.

That document, known as a Certificate of No-Impediment to Marriage or CNI, confirms to a foreign government that the Australian who wants to marry under its laws is not already married in Australia.

The Australian government routinely issues this document to heterosexual Australians marrying overseas, but it has an explicit policy of refusing them to same-sex partners.

This causes an array of problems for Australians entering legal same-sex marriages in other countries. Many same-sex partners only find out about the CNI problem at the last minute and either have to call off their wedding or go through with the kind of unofficial commitment ceremony they wanted to avoid.

In many of the countries that allow same-sex marriages, marriage brings rights and entitlements not available to cohabiting couples. This leaves Australians whose same-sex marriages the Gillard government has blocked without recognition or protection in health care, pensions and immigration.

Then there’s the pain of being denied the same rights other Australians take for granted. According to Chris Murray, whose legal marriage to his Portuguese partner, Victor, could not take place because the government would not give him a CNI, “As much as I appreciated the support of friends and family, no amount of ‘don’t worry – it’s only a piece of paper’ or ‘but it’s your love that counts’ made up for the fact that my country was saying that my relationship was not only not worthy of recognition, but I had to be prohibited from having this relationship recognised elsewhere in the world.”

Because of these problems the Netherlands gives Australians an exemption from its CNI requirement (along with Zimbabweans). Meanwhile, the Norwegians are so angry that the Gillard government is pushing its prejudices down their throats, they attacked Australia’s same-s-x marriage ban at a recent UN human rights review.

But for the most part there’s nothing that countries who allow same-sex marriages can do about Australia’s CNI policy, and as their number increases so does the number of Australians who face the inconvenience, insecurity and indignity this policy creates.

The Australian government says it refuses to issue CNIs to same-sex couples because same-sex marriages aren’t recognised in Australia. But no-one is swallowing this.

According to Senior Lecturer in Law at the ANU, Wayne Morgan, “There is nothing in Australian law that would prevent a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage (being issued) to a same-sex couple marrying under the laws of another country. This is an internationally accepted document that has nothing to do with the validity of the marriage back in the couple’s own country.”

A 2009 Senate Committee inquiry into same-sex marriage agreed. It found that, “A decision by a sovereign nation to allow marriage between a couple of the same sex should be a matter for that nation, and not a matter against which Australia should throw up bureaucratic barriers.”

Since then the Government’s discriminatory policy has suffered another blow.

In 2010 Tasmania became the first Australian state or territory to acknowledge overseas same-sex marriages as state civil partnerships, giving them all the same rights as married couples in state AND federal law.

This creates an absurd situation where the Australian government is giving full marriage entitlements to legal unions it has tried to block on the basis that they are not recognised in Australia.

So why does the Gillard government maintain such a ridiculous, harmful and discriminatory policy?

It’s hard to see the current bureaucratic block to overseas same-sex marriages as anything but another mean-spirited attempt by the government to convince right-wing Christian lobbyists it despises same-sex marriages as much as they do.

Yet again loving, committed same-sex partners have been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.

I’m confident this won’t last much longer.

With Galaxy Research finding that 75% of Australians believe same-sex marriages are inevitable, history is clearly on the side of equality.

If the Labor Party doesn’t reverse its discriminatory stance on same-sex marriages at its National Conference in December, the next generation of Australians will condemn it in the same way we now condemn those Labor governments that upheld the White Australia Policy.

*Rodney Croome is the Campaign Director of Australian Marriage Equality and the co-author of Why v Why: gay marriage.

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39 comments

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39 thoughts on “The Gillard government’s anti-gay marriage policy goes global

  1. John

    Julia Gillard appears to be the most homophobic prime minister in Australia’s history. The absurd aspect is that people on the other side of politics, such as those who criticised her for being “deliberately barren”, have been conducting a whispering campaign that she is a closet lesbian and that her hairdresser consort is just a handbag.

  2. 9302202e5a6abd06a6b4260ead62ee10

    well really after getting the farmers off side, the miners off side, the refugee advocates off side,the clubs offside,kevin rudd offside,she really doesnt want another enemy like the churches offside does she?

  3. Allison

    the law is an ass (or arse)

  4. John

    Hooray for Andrew Wilkie in QT this afternoon.

  5. ladystardust64

    PM Gillard is really making it difficult to raise empathetic, morally conscious teenagers.

    Grow some Julia and stop toppling towards the right wing nutbags. Enough is enough, beyond a joke, blah blah blah. This issue is not going to go away because as it currently stands it is wrong. Everything about it is wrong. Fix it and your legacy will be long and fondly remembered. What if your Tim was a Tammy and you loved her just the same. She might even have a shed too. Would you want anyone else telling you what to feel – how to be you?

    I don’t think so.

  6. Charles Richardson

    To be fair, it should be pointed out that this isn’t something the Gillard govt introduced: it’s a Howard govt policy and dates to at least 2005, as this _Age_ article documents: http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/gays-hit-in-overseas-nuptial-bid/2006/01/13/1137118970292.html . That’s no excuse for Gillard, but she shouldn’t cop all the blame.

  7. SusieQ

    I never knew this happened (CNI’s) and its appalling, but hardly suprising, especially when you have people like the right wing faction of the ALP doing its Chicken Little routine at the mere mention of gay marriage. This issue is such an easy fix for the government- much less complicated than carbon taxes and mining taxes – surely it would pass through parliament easily enough? We may not have many pleasant memories of the Rudd govt, but everyone remembers the apology to the stolen generation don’t they?
    Who cares what the Christian Lobby thinks – why should they have everything their way all the time?

  8. f531f3b28ae6b07f01ad44bf62360840

    Interesting article.

    I did have a question regarding the whole same sex marriage debate.

    If we did get same sex marriage into law, as per many other countries,
    would be willing to discriminate against groups who are calling for FULL marriage equality, as per the definition below:

    “Advocating for the right of consenting adults to enjoy love, sex, and marriage without limits on the gender, number, or relation of participants. Full marriage equality is a basic human right”
    (Source: marriage-equality.blogspot.com).

    If we are willing to discriminate against, and exclude such groups, from the institution of marriage, on what grounds would we exclude them?

    Or are we willing to go the whole way, and redefine marriage to be inclusive of ALL people who wish to marry, not just non-related couples?

    Just a question.

  9. davidk

    Labor used to be left, then centre-left, then centre right and it is still heading further over under Gillard. . Maybe it should merge with the Libs to make a three way coalition leaving the greens to fill the void.

  10. ladystardust64

    I want to know what the real Julia thinks about all this. From what I have heard in the past, I can’t reconcile this tripe with the highly intelligent, capable, civic and democratically minded Juila Gillard that used to inhabit the body of the automaton that we now call PM.

    It’s Blaze of Glory time Julia. What have you got to lose. Take your stand and go out swinging. Or not, who’s to know …

    All of this BS really pisses me off. Stand for something. Anything. Just stand up.

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