Current Affairs

Court hears legal challenge against Australia’s equal marriage vote

Nick Duffy September 5, 2017
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A legal challenge against Australia’s planned public vote on equal marriage will begin today.

Later this month Australians will be asked to vote on whether same-sex couples deserve the right to marriage, in a controversial public vote pushed forward by right-wing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The postal vote, which is informal and not regulated by any law, is going ahead without permission from Parliament under Mr Turnbull’s orders, under the jurisdiction of the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Today the country’s High Court will begin hearing a two-day challenge from LGBT activists who insist that Mr Turnbull is overreaching his authority.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is representing Andrew Wilkie, Member for Denison, PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and Felicity Marlowe, a mother in a same-sex relationship with three young children.

Same-sex marriage rally in Sydney
Equal marriage campaigners (Photo by PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

They are seeking an injunction to stop the vote from going ahead, which could stop Mr Turnbull’s plan in its tracks.

PIAC CEO Jonathon Hunyor said: “Our clients are seeking to stop the government proceeding with the postal vote on same sex marriage on the basis that the government does not have the power to conduct the postal vote without parliamentary approval.

“Our clients sought an urgent hearing by the High Court and an injunction to stop the postal vote going ahead before this case could be heard.

“The government agreed that nothing would be sent before the case is heard and the Court listed the case for an urgent hearing on 5-6 September,

“This is an important first step and we are pleased that the important constitutional issues raised by this case will now be considered urgently by the High Court.
“We look forward to making the case in full at a hearing in September.”

He said previously: “We will be arguing that by going ahead without the authorisation of parliament, the government is acting beyond its power.

“We will argue that the government cannot validly undertake a postal vote and also that it cannot fund the exercise without parliamentary approval.

“These are important issues about the way that power is exercised by governments and the role of parliament in our democracy.”

Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays says it has confidence it can win a High Court challenge.

PFLAG national spokesperson, Shelley Argent, said: “PFLAG is taking this case because the parents of LGBTI Australians don’t want to see our children subject to such a demeaning, hate-filled and pointless vote that will go nowhere and resolve nothing.

As a mother of a gay son and as a representative of parents in this country with LGBTI children I will not hesitate to take the Government to the High Court to stop a postal vote.

“The time has now arrived where marriage equality opponents are desperate and have run out of reasons against marriage equality.

“Some in the government are so intent on continuing the discrimination of LGBTI people they are now stooping to un-constitutional practice.

“With marriage equality now legal in many Catholic and Commonwealth countries the Australian Government has run out of excuses.”

Felicity Marlowe said: “I am worried about the impact the public campaign will have in my children, on my partner and all rainbow families across Australia.

“It will be a full-time occupation for the next three months for my partner and I to protect my children from the flyers delivered to our home stating that ‘children need a mother and a father – so vote no to marriage equality’, or to stop them seeing any billboards or posters in our local shopping centre or along the major roads we take to school every morning.”

Andrew Wilkie said: “I have consistently advocated against executive overreach of the kind we see with the postal vote on marriage equality. Parliament should decide if, when and how the people are consulted, and how it’s paid for.”

Long-time marriage equality advocate and spokesperson for just.equal, Rodney Croome, said: “A postal vote will not be representative of the whole community, will not be binding on politicians and is just another desperate delaying tactic.

“It will also be a platform for fear-mongering and hate against LGBTI Australians.

“To single out only LGBTI people and our human rights for a voluntary, non-binding postal vote is treating same-sex couples differently to everybody else.

“Human rights and equality issues should be dealt with through the parliament, not the post office.

“The only legitimate way forward is for there to be a free vote in Parliament.

“I urge all supporters of marriage equality to throw their support behind t his Court challenge should it be necessary.”

Related: What the hell is going on with same-sex marriage in Australia?

More: Australia, Australia, challenge, equal marriage, Gay, Legal, LGBT, marriage

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