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Marriage equality fails in Australian state legislature, shows early signs of promise in Delaware

Marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

A bill to legalize equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians failed yesterday in the Tasmanian Upper House on an 8-6 vote after two days of intense, thorough debate.  Lara Giddings, the Tasmian Premier and a proponent of marriage equality, expressed disappointment in the outcome but said that she would keep pushing for equality.

“We will continue this,” Giddings said.  “It’s not the end.  It’s the beginning.”  Greens leader Nick McKim also criticized the vote, saying, “The Council’s chosen fear over love, the Council’s chosen division over unity, and it’s chosen the 19th century over the 21st century.”

In Delaware, on the other end, there are promising signs pointing to the possible success of marriage equality in the state sometime next year.  The Delaware News Journal reported yesterday that Pete Schwartzkopf, a Democrat widely expected to become the state’s next Speaker of the House, told the paper that a marriage equality bill has a good chance of coming before the General Assembly in 2013, and that he’d vote for it.  Schwartzkopf called marriage equality a “no-brainer,” although he said he has “no idea what the votes are.”

A civil unions bill passed the state legislature in 2011 with only two Republican votes in the legislature.  Governor Jack Markell, who supports equal marriage rights, told The Huffington Post he believes the issue will come up for a vote next year, and that if it does, he is open to taking a leadership role in the process like Maryland’s Martin O’Malley and New York’s Andrew Cuomo did when their states were considering marriage equality.

H/t to jpmassar for posting both these items in Quick Hits


  • 1. davep  |  September 28, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Does anyone know the technical details of how Australia's states (like Tasmania) relate to the Australian federal government regarding civil marriage laws? If a state within Australia votes to allow civil marriage for same sex couples, what exactly does that mean? Does the federal government have to recognize it? Can it deny federal recognition, although the state still recognizes it (like the current situation with DOMA)? Does the federal government have authority to overrule the state's decision and stop the state from approving it? Etc.

  • 2. Pat  |  September 28, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Yeah, it's pretty surprising that such a bill hasn't yet been discussed in Delaware! There 14 Dems vs. 7 Rep in the Senate, and the Delaware House is 26 D – 15 R. Seems it should pass very easily. Or am I missing something about Delaware democrats being not too progressive on this topic?

  • 3. Joey  |  September 28, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    I believe the speaker in the Senate wouldnt let it come up for debate, unless I am confusing that with Rhode Island… which now I think I am…

  • 4. Mike  |  September 28, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    It's not very surprising. They passed a civil union law in 2011 and didn't go back to improve it before the next election.
    NY is the only state that went from nothing to marriage with one law.

    If they can't pass a marriage bill next year, there is a problem. Since there's no veto referendum DE will be good to go once the law is signed.

  • 5. Mike in Baltimore  |  September 28, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Even though Maryland has a legislature that is (House of Delegates) 98-43 and (Senate) 35-12 in favor of the Democrats, the Senate President (a Democrat) is against marriage equality. By the state Constitution, he MUST sign any legislation for it to go into effect, and so he sat at the table for signing the bill for marriage equality, but 'vamoosed' as fast as possible after it was signed.

    In the Maryland state House, the vote was 71-67; and in the state Senate, the vote was 25-22, both in favor of marriage equality.

    There is no way to predict how some people will vote, even when it's a vote on people's rights. For instance, Representative Burns (an African-American delegate, and registers as a Democrat) is a vociferous opponent of marriage equality, and in fact wrote a letter to the ownership and management of the Baltimore Ravens, complaining about the Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo speaking out in favor of marriage equality. It was that letter that caused the Vikings punter Chris Klewe to write a now well-known open letter to Delegate Burns about three weeks ago.

  • 6. FemEagle  |  September 29, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    "Fear over love"? How about "truth" over "perversion"? You know, the TRUTH? Bravo for Australia!

  • 7. bythesea  |  September 29, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Troll elsewhere bigot.

  • 8. _BK_  |  September 30, 2012 at 3:43 am

    Hm, no, I don't really know what you mean by "TRUTH"… but perhaps you could enlighten me, Mr. Troll.

  • 9. guest  |  September 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    or "dumb @$$ bigot" (like yourself" in a miserable hetero life…over logic. there's a better comparison.

  • 10. Michael  |  September 30, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    How about homophobia is a sin like lying, stealing and murder?

  • 11. Roger  |  September 30, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Davep (post#1):
    I am not a lawyer, so all I can give you is a layman’s understanding of a situation over which constitutional lawyers disagree; but here goes:

    Section 51 of the Australian Constitution Act says that “The [Commonwealth] Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: ” followed by thirty nine designated matters, of which #21 consists of the single word “marriage.”

    In fact the Commonwealth did not so legislate until 1961, preferring to leave the regulation of marriage to the States; and it was not until 2004 that the Howard Government amended the 1961 Marriage act to include the following clause: “Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. Certain unions are not marriages. A union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia.”

    Notice that Section 51 does not grant the Commonwealth *exclusive* power to legislate on the 39 matters, but elsewhere in the Constitution the principle is enunciated that that where State and Commonwealth legislation conflict, Commonwealth law prevails.

    So far, so good: but there is a respectable body of legal opinion that the single word “marriage” only refers to what ‘marriage’ meant when the Constitution was adopted in 1901, when same-sex marriage was unheard of; and therefore the States retain the power to legislate with respect to SSM. That opinion is held by the Attorneys-General of Tasmania and South Australia which presently has a marriage equality bill before it, to be debated early next year. I understand that Victoria and NSW are both considering similar legislation.

    There is another aspect to all this which muddies the water. The Rudd government amended a whole raft of Commonwealth legislation to allow same-sex couples in “registered relationships” virtually all the rights of marriage except the title and ceremony — but (curiously) left the power to register SS relationships to the States.

    So the situation at the moment is very untidy, and while the simple solution would be for the Commonwealth to rescind the 2004 anti-equality amendments to the Marriage Act, it is presently unwilling to do so. Which leaves the States to assert their power to do the right thing.

    When the first State (my bet is that it will be SA) passes equal-marriage-rights legislation, we’ll no doubt see a battle in the High Court, because I can’t see Julia Gillard not challenging it.

  • 12. Seth from Maryland  |  September 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    NEW MAINE POLL: commissioned by the Portland Press Herald/Maine found that The referendum proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in Maine leads 57 percent to 36 percent in the poll, with 7 percent saying they are undecided.

    The 21-percentage point lead is almost identical to the findings of the June poll. It is a larger lead than was measured by three other recent polls, although the differences are within the polls' margins of error.

  • 13. Seth from Maryland  |  September 30, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    • 81 percent of Democrats said they would vote "yes," while 64 percent of Republicans say they would vote "no."

    • 86 percent of Obama supporters back same-sex marriage, while 75 percent of Romney supporters oppose it.

    • 79 percent of King supporters back same-sex marriage, while 77 percent of Summers supporters oppose it.

    • 69 percent of college graduates support the referendum, while 56 percent of people with a high school education or less oppose it.

    • 77 percent of 18- to 34-year-old voters support it, while 50 percent of voters over 65 oppose it.

  • 14. Seth from Maryland  |  September 30, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    anyone thinking about what will happen tommorow? i know i am? i been telling myself if it happens it happens if it dont it dont , but i still keep thinking about it

  • 15. davep  |  September 30, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    "Anybody"? More like everybody : )

  • 16. Seth from Maryland  |  September 30, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    yea lol ,

  • 17. Australian Capital Territ&hellip  |  October 23, 2013 at 6:42 am

    […] in the next few weeks.  Tasmania’s lower house approved a similar bill last summer which failed in the upper house a few months […]

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