THEY are the issues that grabbed the nation - the ones news.com.au readers cared about most this year.
You support it more than our politicians seem to believe - so why is there still all the hoopla?
It’s time to go through the facts of the debate and see where we are going next.
What rights exist now?
Nowhere in Australia is same-sex marriage legal. Civil unions between same-sex partners are available in the Australian Capital Territory and relationships can be “registered” in Tasmania, Victoria and in some local government areas around the nation.
Last month Queensland also passed “the Civil Partnerships Bill 2011” allowing relationship registration, which is set to come into force on “a day to be fixed by proclamation”.
However, on Tuesday Independent MP Rob Messenger announced he would introduce a private members’ Bill to repeal it.
Why do most of us want it legalised?
In a nutshell, so same-sex couples can get married like everyone else.
Australian Marriage Equality national convener Alex Greenwich says: “I would say most Australians think ‘really, who cares if two people who are in love get married - whether they’re gay or straight’.
“I think most Australians see us just as normal everyday Australians who should be treated equally by the law.”
Why people don’t want it legalised
Some object to changing the definition of marriage – which was last amended in the Marriage Act in 2004 to be: “The union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.”
Others object on religious grounds. A letter signed by 22 church leaders described marriage as securing “the relationship between biological parents and their children,” and therefore should not be altered by adding other relationships to the definition.
How you actually feel about it
Way back in 2004, Newspoll found just 38 per cent of Australians supported same-sex marriage.
In 2007 a Galaxy poll found that had jumped to 57 per cent of Australians.
In 2007 a Galaxy poll found that figure had jumped to 57 per cent. Support has been rising consistently ever since – to 60 per cent in May 2009 and to 62 per cent in a 2010 poll.
An “alternative census” running on news.com.au found seven in ten of you were in favour of marriage equality.
In May of this year Galaxy found that three in four Australians think gay marriage is inevitable. Among Christians, more than half of those polled were also open to allowing same-sex marriage.
Alex Greenwich says the general increase in support shows a growing acceptance and awareness of same-sex couples in the community.
“I think gay and lesbian people are becoming for confident and comfortable with being themselves and with being visible and the wider community becoming very accepting of that,” he says.
What are the politicians doing about it?
The Labor Party this month adopted a policy supporting same-sex marriage at its national conference in Sydney that could be a vote winner.
A Galaxy poll in October this year found the party would receive a positive 7.3 per cent swing if it officially endorsed same-sex marriage.
The party would lose 10 per cent of its own voters but gain 47 per cent of Greens votes, 4 per cent from the Coalition and 20 per cent of those who said “other”.
Labor has also agreed to allow a conscience vote on an expected private members Bill hoping to redefine the definition of marriage.
The Coalition has so far ruled out supporting same-sex and without a similar conscience vote the Bill is not expected to pass.
The stance is at odds with constituents – polling earlier this month found 76 per cent of Coalition voters actually supported a conscience vote on the issue.
Alex Greenwich is optimistic Tony Abbott will change his stated view and allow a conscience vote when the issue next goes to Parliament in the new year.
“The Coalition has a proud history of always allowing conscience votes on gay and lesbian law reform issues and I can’t see why this would be any different,” Mr Greenwich says.
The issue of same-sex marriage is changing constantly but despite what the politicians decide judging by the polls if it were put to a referendum today, most Australians would say yes.
GAY MARRIAGE WORLD
Gay marriage facts and statistics as of December 2012 are below.
Latest Gay Marriage Support Polls Strongly favor/favor: 41%
Oppose/strongly appose: 47%
Gay Marriage Facts and Statistics Source: Pew Research Center. Support Trends Public support for gay marriage has increased about 1% annually over the last two decades. Statisticians predict a majority of Americans will support gay marriage by 2012.
Facts and Statistics Source: Polling Report Article by law professors Patrick Egan and Nathaniel Persily. States Where Gay Marriage Is Legal Massachusetts (2004) Connecticut (2008) Iowa (2009) Vermont (2009) New Hampshire (2010) Washington, D.C. (2010) (not a state)
States That Recognize Out-of-State Gay Marriages:
New York California (only if the marriage is from before Proposition 8 was passed)
Gay Couples Demographics: The most recent census did not count gay marriages directly, so the following are estimates based on how people reported their household. It counts households with 2 members of the same sex that are unrelated.
Total Number of Gay Couples: 594,391
Number of People in a Couple: 1.2 Million State With the Most Couples: California (92,138) State With the Least Couples: North Dakota (703) Highest Concentration of Gay Couple (% of all couples): Washington, D.C. (1.29%) Lowest Concentration of Gay Couples (% of all couples): North and South Dakota (.22%) Gay people make up 1-4% of the population in most cities, but are more concentrated [PDF] in metropolitan areas. Gay Marriage Facts and Statistics Source: 2000 Census. Most Same Sex Couples by City New York, NY: 47,000 Los Angeles, CA: 12,000 Chicago, IL: 10,000 Gay Marriage Facts and Statistics Source: 2000 Census. Highest LGBT Concentration by Major Metropolitan City San Francisco, CA: 15.4% Seattle, WA: 12.9% Atlanta, GA: 12.8% Gay Marriage Facts and Statistics Source: 2000 Census. Lowest LGBT Concentration by Major Metropolitan City Detroit, MI: 1.5% Richmond, VA: 3.4% Cleveland, OH and Memphis, TN: 3.5% Gay Marriage Facts and Statistics Source: 2000 Census.
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