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Legal Gay Marriages Begin in Germany; Australia Gets Mired in a Messy Referendum

A tale of two parliaments

MacklemoreOn Sunday, Germany joined 14 other European countries (and the United States) in officially recognizing gay marriages.

As has been typical in a country when the change starts, the first couple to be wed legally in the nation received a lot of press coverage—in this case, Bodo Mende, 60, and Karl Kreile, 69.

Germany had a domestic civil partnership system in place since 2001, but it did not provide all the same legal rights in the country as a full marriage (in particular, the right to adopt).

Why did it take so long for Germany to get on board? Chancellor Angela Merkel and her party opposed gay marriage recognition, and given party politics, that meant members of her party, the Christian Democratic Union, would be expected to vote no in any parliamentary effort to extend legal recognition to gay couples.

That all changed in June. Part of the reason was purely political: Merkel calculated her party would need to maintain a coalition with the center-left Social Democrats after September's election, and the Social Democrats demanded support for same-sex marriage recognition. (The actual results of the election complicate Merkel's plans.)

But her shift was also partly due to her own realization that homosexuality was not, in fact, an indication that a person was not capable of forming a stable, loving relationship suitable for children, as she discovered from communicating with a lesbian couple who had fostered eight children.

In June, Merkel declared she was open to allowing her party members to have a "vote of conscience," meaning lawmakers would be allowed to decide for themselves whether to legally recognize same-sex marriages and would not be ordered to toe the party line. Days later, Germany's parliament did just that and voted to legalize recognition, starting October 1. City halls even opened on Sunday to marry off couples.

Meanwhile, down under in Australia, the road to legal recognition for same-sex couples remains very, very messy. Gay marriage supporters, including members of the Liberal Democratic Party—a.k.a. the libertarians—have been pushing lawmakers to change the law to recognize such unions. But Australian supporters have had the same problem as Germany's supporters: Part of the ruling coalition has a formal stance against recognizing gay marriages and would not allow a "conscience vote" so that party members could decide for themselves. So even though Australian polls show the public widely supports same-sex marriage, they did not have the votes in the parliament.

What Australia's ruling party has done instead is pushed it all into a nonbinding national vote through the mail. Australian citizens have all been sent a survey form and asked to mail it back indicating whether they thing gay marriages should be legally recognized. They have until November 7 to return their ballots.

Because the vote is nonbinding, Parliament will have to act to legalize gay marriage, even if the majority votes yes. So fundamentally, the purpose of the vote is to give lawmakers political cover either way.

The referendum has resulted in a massive media blitz from both sides to convince voters to support or oppose marriage recognition. Every Australian celebrity people might have heard of outside the country has declared support for a "yes" vote. This weekend saw the strategic deployment of Macklemore at the national rugby finals (essentially the country's Super Bowl) with a performance of one of only two songs anybody will ever remember about him, "Same Love." ("Thrift Shop" is the other one.) In the event you might have forgotten who Macklemore is, watch below:

How should liberty-minded people feel about such a vote? While I've generally been supportive of ballot initiatives bypassing stubborn legislatures to improve people's lives and reduce the government's control over our lives, this referendum doesn't even do that. Because the vote is not binding in any way, the parliament is still going to have to vote; this entire expensive process exists so the ruling parties can avoid accountability. Libertarians I know who live in or have ties to Australia have been negative about the vote probably for just that reason: The referendum isn't about democracy so much as it's about lawmakers dodging responsibility.

Photo Credit: Australian National Rugby League

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  • loveconstitution1789||

    Why is this new again?

    You know what other taboo thing Germany did and didn't talk about for years?

  • BYODB||

    Listen to David Hasselhoff albums?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Why is this news again?

  • BYODB||

    Why is it always assumed that the state must have it's say in Marriage. You know, I would respect the movement more if they made the obvious argument: The state has no say in who I choose to spend the rest of my life with, through either subsidy, tax schemes, or other attempts to convey what is a 'normal' relationship.


    But no, it's envy top to bottom. To put laws like these in place without removing the laws that were intended to foster a presumptive social norm, say marriage between a man and a woman to sire children for the state, make the whole system of switch's and levers look exactly as ridiculous as it always truly was.

  • WakaWaka||

    "Why is it always assumed that the state must have it's say in Marriage"

    I remember when libertarians use to argue that there are a lot of people being denied marriage licenses and that the state should just not be involved in these contracts. That argument seems to have receded and the cosmotarian love for big government (so long as it is 'correct') has won the day.

  • BYODB||

    The very idea that one needs a license to love is perhaps one of the most bald-faced insane things I've ever heard of, but leave it to people to insist that the license isn't the problem it's who the license is issued to.

    But, since most married people are heterosexual (as, in fact, are most human beings regardless of attachment status) I suppose it was understood that those people would be upset at a removal of a benefit (tax scheme's) so it was just 'easier' to expand the definition, even while that completely exploded the notion behind such laws in the first place (enforcing traditional values).

  • dantheserene||

    The reality is that governments give many rights to the "married" that the unmarried do not get. Since governments are already deeply involved, the only way to get equal protection is to play the game.

  • WakaWaka||

    Benefits like the marriage tax penalty? I really don't know what benefits the government gives married people. The government gives benefits to people with children and society at large gives married people benefits (like medical visitation). What are these benefits that the government gives married people? Default estate inheritance? Can't that be done with a pre-existing contract?

  • dantheserene||

    The feds themselves made a list of over a thousand benefits just at the federal level. Here's one of many, many sources out there:
    http://family.findlaw.com/marr.....efits.html

  • BYODB||

    And this is why they want to expand the definition, rather than remove the benefit. It's been a useful tool in controlling people, why change it. At least in their view.

  • WakaWaka||

    Ok, I'm not going to debate this list, although some of these aren't really benefits. Regardless, the notion that because big brother has rules for a union is rationale enough to continue with that system? By that logic then Uber should be regulated like the taxi industry, because the same rules should apply in the same industry. The fact remains that cosmotarians are big fans of big government if the policy is something they like. They are not libertarian, they are watered down progressives.

  • dantheserene||

    It is up to each person to decide whether they want to be principled or pragmatic. Those who have no skin in the game have an easy time declaring their opposition.

  • WakaWaka||

    That is a supreme cop out. 'Big government bad, except when it benefits me' is not a logical statement. It is the height of hypocrisy.

    Let's not forget that marriage laws still prevent polygamous marriage (violating freedom of association and religious liberty) and marriage between people who are closely related (I thought marriage was no longer about procreation).

  • WakaWaka||

    And only one type of marriage is currently a constitutional right

  • dantheserene||

    As the Bard once wrote, "Don't hate the player, hate the game."

  • dantheserene||

    The height of hypocrisy would be taking advantage of a government benefit to get ahead of others. In this case, it is catching up with others.

  • Tony||

    Like a bunch of married men who insist that marriage is a big-government plot?

    Though, it must be if government put a gun to their heads and forced them to get married.

  • BYODB||

    Just for reference, I said the same thing about marriage before the gay marriage issue was settled. The government has no interest in who marries whom, so they should stay out of it entirely.

    Let us not pretend there wouldn't be a church or non-belief oriented organization that would perform these services for people of all sorts of backgrounds, including this specific test case. They were already doing it before it was 'legal', in fact!

    Handing out benefits because of something like marriage was meant to encourage a certain behavior. Is continuing that tradition a worthy pursuit when we already saw where it led? I'd say no, even without knowing where it leads. It is simply a matter of principle and philosophy.

    The theocratic righty folks that Tony hates so much are actually to blame for most of it, too. Social conservatives are the worst kind of 'conservatives', if you can call them that at all. While their association gives 'conservatism' votes, it seriously compromises their arguments through that association. Unfortunate, really, but then again perhaps they are the majority.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...the state should just not be involved in these contracts.

    The license isn't a contract between two people getting married, it's between the married couple and the state.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Because it affects state benefits. As soon as the government starts handing out money, everyone wants to control who gets it and why.

    Just like almost everything else, it's down to coercive government fucking everything up.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    ^ this is the best answer so far.

  • Tony||

    You can't treat gay people differently from straight people under the law. It violates the constitution of the United States.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Where does it say in the Constitution about marriage?

    Oh that's right, its a custom and human right for a man and woman to marry and therefore not necessary to include in the constitution. Like the right to take manage care of one's kids and the right to protect oneself.

    But yeah, government should be cut by 50%+ and then be forced to recognize contracts of matrimony between men/women and men/men and women/women.

  • Tony||

    It doesn't say anything about marriage, but it does say people in this country enjoy the right of equal protection of the law.

  • WakaWaka||

    There are plenty of people who are still excluded from the state recognizing their union, so your claim of equal protection is nonsense

  • WakaWaka||

    There are plenty of people who are still excluded from the state recognizing their union, so your claim of equal protection is nonsense

  • Tony||

    Take it up with the supreme court.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Tony|10.2.17 @ 4:00PM|#
    Take it up with the supreme court.


    I guess you will say that when Kennedy retires and Ruth Gingsburg dies and is replaced by conservatives and the gay marriage precedent is reversed?

    Funny how bureaucrats and politician's pen and phone orders are reversed so easily.

  • Tony||

    I am under no illusion that conservatives are telling the truth when they say they don't like legislating from the bench.

    And yes the SC gets to determine what the constitutions means. Pathetic right-wingers are waging as we speak a "The straights will rise again!" campaign to reverse Obergefell.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Aw, Tony. Equal protection does not mean what you think it means.

    men/women marriage has been a recognized custom for most cultures through much of human existence. Gay marriage is not.

    14th Amendment:
    ....No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

    In the US v. Windsor, there were no state statutes involved to strike down, so no equal protection clause applied.

  • Tony||

    I guess they relied on equal protection found in the 5th, which is nonetheless enhanced by the 14th.

  • WakaWaka||

    "The referendum isn't about democracy so much as it's about lawmakers dodging responsibility."

    As are all referendums? So, it would appear that your support for referendums is malleable to whether or not they vote the 'right way'.

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