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Nov 30, 2011

Andrew Barr: I can’t marry the person I love — that needs to change

Andrew Barr is the Deputy Chief Minister of the ACT and a life-long Labor Party member. He's also gay and in a long-term committed relationship. And he'd like to get married.

My name is Andrew Barr.

I joined the Australian Labor Party as an 18-year-old, the best part of two decades ago. I am Deputy Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory, a member of the National Right caucus and a delegate to the forthcoming ALP National Conference.

I am also a gay man in a long-term committed relationship.

The fact that I am gay has resulted in me being deemed a second-class citizen under Australian law. That is because under Australian law I cannot marry the person I love, the person that I am committed to.

Our current marriage law does not allow same-s-x marriages.

This weekend, my party will debate its national platform and consider a change to its current wording, which discriminates against the equal right to marry.

The proposed 2011 ALP national platform talks of Labor’s commitment to removing discrimination against same-s-x couples and of equal rights for all couples in federal and state laws.  However, it contradicts these worthy statements by seeking to maintain the definition of marriage as currently set out in the Marriage Act.

And for those who haven’t read the Marriage Act recently that says marriage is an institution between a man and a woman to the exclusion of gay or lesbian Australians.

What I, and many of my fellow ALP members, would like to see is a positive change to our platform. Something that recognises every Australians’ right to marry while respecting the wishes of some churches and religious institutions in this area.

We will be proposing a new platform commitment that states:

“Labor will amend the Marriage Act to ensure equal access to marriage under statute for all couples irrespective of sex who have a mutual commitment to a shared life.  These amendments should ensure that nothing in the Marriage Act imposes an obligation on a minister of religion to solemnise any marriage.”

Why is it important to amend the national platform? For me, and many others, it is an expression of what we believe in, what we think is right.

The ALP national platform tells the Australian people what our values are. At the moment our platform says to Australians that we don’t truly believe in equal rights. Particularly on the issue of marriage equality for gay and lesbian members of our society.

The issue of a conscience vote for members of parliament is part of this debate but in my view the change to the national platform is the primary issue.

Most people in the ALP and in the community tell me they personally support this change. I, and many other gay and lesbian people, truly appreciate their personal support.

But now is the time to act.

This is about drawing a line in the sand. It is about standing up for Labor principles.

I am asking all ALP national conference delegates to change to the ALP national platform so that it supports equal marriage rights for all Australians.

In doing so we remember the words of Martin Luther King Jnr: “Make a career of humanity, commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights, you will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.”

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16 comments

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16 thoughts on “Andrew Barr: I can’t marry the person I love — that needs to change

  1. sparky

    When Labor voted with the last government on the changes to the Marriage Act it was apparently to avoid a wedge issue, we’ll see if that is true or not. I hope the delegates on the weekend reflect on just how many people know a gay folk, love them, and have them as members of their families.

  2. McCorkell Graham

    Thankyou Andrew Barr for getting your story out there.

    A nationally consistent framework should represent majority Australian opinion. Marriage equality supports impressionable young people who may be struggling with their sexuality. Discrimination in marriage sends out the message that these young people are less valuable to society and they hope, in vain, to fall in love and have a happy family life. A disturbing number of suicides are attributed to these youngsters. I would like to declare my love and commitment for my partner of thirteen years in the same social forum that other Australians enjoy – in the company of valued friends and family. Since both my parents are deceased, they have been denied the joy of witnessing me marry my partner; my hope is for family and friends who are still living.

  3. Mack the Knife

    Isn’t the figure one in ten ratio of gays to heteros?

    That’s an awful large number of people to be denied the same dignity as the rest of us.

    Good luck Andrew and praise for speaking up mate.

  4. Jean

    Dear Andrew.

    Sorry about your pain, but as you are a politician, not too sorry 🙂

    Want my support?

    1 Fix the economy, then

    2 Propose genuinely inclusive changes to the marriage act that will not privilege monogamy- there are lots of Mormons, Moslems and alternative lifestylers currently discriminated against in exactly the same way as monogamous gays and lesbians are.

  5. CML

    Good on you, Andrew! I do hope you prevail this weekend. Please know that you have a lot of “straight” people like me out here who will be cheering for your victory. Sparky said it all in the last sentence of his post.

  6. B.Tolputt

    @Jean:
    The economy is never going to be perfect for everyone. Trying to delay doing the right thing until an unrelated issue is resolved to your liking (especially one as unachievable as fixing the economy, given we’re one of the best in the world right now!) doesn’t even reach the bar of “semi-reasonable excuse”.

    In regards to polygamy, that has a wide variety of issues unrelated to paired relationships. Just to name one of many is the Power of Attorney issue – which of the polygamous partners gets it in the case of needing a medical decision and/or dealing with a deceased estate, especially if they disagree? That’s without going into issues such as whose death finishes the marriage, can one partner marry someone who other partners do not consent to joining the legal relationship, and so on.

    Same-sex marriage has no need to solve those issues, as they are already resolved in regards to heterosexual marriage. No rule change is needed to have it work aside from allowing couples of the same gender to marry. That is the sole change required as even the concept of a religious representative not needing to solemnise the marriage already exists (e.g. a Catholic priest can already refuse to marry people professing disbelief in the Catholic religion).

  7. GocomSys

    This is about ‘equality’, nothing more nothing less.
    The time has come to finally overcome ‘them’ and ‘us’ attitudes and it is absolutely none of my business what anyone’s sexual preferences are.

  8. SBH

    My only question Andrew is why do you remain a member of a faction that denies such a fundamental aspect of your humanity?

  9. shepherdmarilyn

    Yes, and Ian Hunter, a friend of mine for 25 years, has been with Leith for most of those years but cannot marry.

    Penny and Sophie are about to be parents and cannot marry.

    What a pissant country we really are run by racists and bigots.

    Good luck Andrew.