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Gay Australian Official to Wed in NY, Challenge Anti-Gay Policy at Home

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Jul 13, 2011

A member of the Australian parliament intends to marry his same-sex life partner in New York, and challenge a law at home that denies the validity of marriages granted to gays and lesbians in other countries, PinkNews reported on July 11.

The Pink News article said that South Australian MP Ian Hunter -- the only openly gay member of that body -- has plans to head to New York with his same-sex life partner of more than two decades, Leith Semmons, in order to marry. New York's recently enacted marriage equality law goes into effect on July 24.

But the Australian government seeks to thwart marriages abroad for its gay and lesbian citizens through a bureaucratic trick. Though heterosexual couples may receive documentation attesting that there is no impediment to their marriage -- for example, that they are already married to someone else -- that same document, called a Certificate of Non-Impediment to Marriage (CNI), is denied to gay and lesbian families.

"I don't want to wait till I'm 75 to get married," Hunter told the Australian media, going on to say that the form "has no legislative weight," and adding, "so I can't see for the life of me how making those instruments available ... will cause any blowback." Added Hunter, "I think that it's petty and mean spirited."

Australian parity groups slammed the country's Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, for the policy.

"The Gillard government's policy of not allowing same-sex marriages in Australia forces same-sex couples to go overseas if they want to marry, but when they apply to marry in another country Julia Gillard is there saying 'no' as well," said Alex Greenwich, who is with GLBT rights group Australian Marriage Equality.

"This means some couples miss out on entitlements and protections they can only receive overseas if they are married in a country that would otherwise recognize their commitment, and it causes endless hassles for couples who have planned their wedding only to find it can't go ahead," added Greenwich.

Though marriage equality is not legal in Australia, in most of the country the law treats gays and heterosexuals equally in many ways. Age of consent laws are the same everywhere except for Queensland. Several states also permit gay and lesbian families to register as domestic partners, and federal law grants a number of protections to same-sex couples, such as tax parity, according to an entry at Wikipedia.

But for the country's gay and lesbian families, as for same-sex couples around the world in places where marriage equality is withheld based on sexual orientation, marriage remains a goal.

"Frankly, the 13 million Australians who support marriage equality are getting sick and tired of Ms. Gillard telling us that her antiquated personal views on the issue carry more weight than ours," opined Greenwich.

Gillard herself has eschewed marriage, and lives with her opposite-sex partner, Tim Mathieson, outside of the bonds of matrimony, On Top Magazine reported in an article on gay icon Lady Gaga's visit down under.

Lady Gaga appeared on an Australian talk show and said that she was "against... the way that certain laws or restrictions on certain things send a message that one person is more valuable than another."

The pop star added that Gillard was not being "hypocritical" in denying marriage to those who want it while opting not to avail herself of marriage even though, unlike the country's gay and lesbian families, she has the right to do so.

"I wouldn't say that it's hypocritical" of Gillard, Lady Gaga said. "It's everyone's personal choice the way they live their lives.

"But I do believe that it is wrong to deny people all over the country the ability to marry. I believe in marriage equality. I would just encourage all of you to mobilize your voices so that the prime minister of Australia can hear you scream, speak and say we want to be fully equal. We want to get married."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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