Australian Marriage Equality
Australian Marriage Equality (AME) is an advocacy group made up of volunteers who have come together to pursue marriage equality in Australia. AME partner with a diverse range of organisations and supporters across the country to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage in Australia. It is the pre-eminent group campaigning for marriage equality in Australia.
AME was founded in 2004 prior to the Federal Parliament's passage of a bill amending the Marriage Act 1961 to rule out the legal recognition of marriages between same-sex couples.
The co-founder and first national Convener of AME was Luke Gahan. Luke, grandson of the former Mayor of Prahran George Gahan, had been a member of the Australian Labor Party and Treasurer of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby. In a 2011 published book called 'Speak Now' Luke Gahan spoke openly about being the youngest 'gay married' Australian, and subsequently Australia's first 'gay divorcee'. Luke Gahan is now a Sociologist based at Melbourne's La Trobe University where he was one of the authors of "Writing Themselves in 3", the third national study on the sexual health and wellbeing of same sex attracted and gender questioning young people.
The third national Convener of AME was Sharon Dane. Sharon is a social psychologist and an Adjunct Fellow of the School of Psychology at The University of Queensland. Sharon Dane was the lead author of Not So Private Lives, which was the first national study to examine same-sex Australians' preferences for relationship recognition, since the introduction of defacto status for same-sex couples at a federal level. She presented findings from this research at the hearing of the Senate Inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009. Sharon Dane married her partner Elaine Crump in Toronto, Canada on 23 July 2008.
The fourth national spokesperson was Alex Greenwich. Greenwich is the son of Mr Victor Greenwich, Head of the Georgian Consular General in Sydney. In 2012 Greenwich married his German partner Victor Hoeld in Argentina. Alex Greenwich was an unsuccessful candidate for the 2012 City of Sydney Council election when the voters of Sydney rejected the marriage equality candidates bid for office. Following his loss at the City of Sydney elections, Alex Greenwich was endorsed by the outgoing New South Wales state member of Parliament Clover Moore MLA to run for the seat of Sydney in a by-election in 2012. In September 2012 after the failure of several same-sex marriage bills in his time as convenor, Alex Greenwich stood down as national convenor and switched his focus to running as an Independent for the New South Wales state parliament. In October 2012 Alex Greenwich became the first same-sex married man in an Australian Parliament after winning the Sydney by-election.
The fist national convenor Luke Gahan launched Australia's campaign for marriage equality in May 2005, 9 months after the Federal Liberal/National Party Coalition Government banned same-sex marriage.
AME began newspaper and television advertisements in 2009 to call for same-sex marriage. They were also invited to speak at a hearing into the Senate Inquiry into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009.
In December 2011 AME campaigners met with Sydney's Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell to discuss the Australian Catholic Church's campaign against same-sex marriage. The group has also met with members of parliament from both major parties to stress the importance of marriage to families and to gay and lesbian youth.
AME members protested Prime Minister Julia Gillard's address to the Sydney Institute at a dinner in Luna Park in April 2011, with protesters holding photographs of same-sex couples who could not marry. Later that year, they launched a series of touring workshops called "Local Voices," which aim to cultivate grassroots activism for same-sex marriage.
On Valentine's Day 2011, AME, partnered with GetUp! to run the Marriage Matters advertising campaign, emphasising the importance of marriage to gay and lesbian couples. Another commercial released around the same time featured twin brothers Paul and David Battye; Paul was best man at his brother's wedding, but cannot himself get married.
When Prince William of Wales and Catherine Middleton married in 2011, AME, with GetUp!, sponsored public outdoor screenings of the event in order to call attention to the fact that gay and lesbian people in Australia cannot marry their partners. "On this happy day when Australians celebrate the royal wedding, many Australians share the aspiration to one day marry their own 'prince' or princess', including many gay and lesbian Australians," commented a spokesperson for the organisation. 
Commissioning polls and studies
AME commissioned a Galaxy Poll in 2010 which found that 62 per cent of Australians support same-sex marriage, and 80 per cent of young people (18–24 years) support marriage equality. In 2011 they commissioned a second Galaxy Poll which found 75% of Australians think legalising same-sex marriage in Australia is inevitable.
In March 2011, AME released a paper which found that Australia's same-sex marriage ban hurt its economy. According to the paper, married partners are less likely to seek government aid, state and territorial governments gain money by issuing marriage licenses, wedding expenditures would stimulate the economy, and tourism would also benefit.
A July 2014 poll, commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality and conducted by Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor found that 72% of Australians supported legalising same-sex marriage, while only 21% were opposed. A majority of those identifying with major religions supported same-sex marriage, including Catholics, Anglicans and non-Christian religions as did a majority of older Australians aged over 55. Mark Textor stated "This poll definitively puts pay to some of the myths that married couples or those with religious beliefs are against same-sex marriage. It doesn’t devalue their marriages or faith, and instead gives everyone equal access to the rights they are accorded". Further, 77% of respondents agreed that Coalition MP's and Senators should be granted a conscience vote on the issue.
AME Board Member Rodney Croome has repeatedly criticised Senator Cory Bernardi's remarks linking same-sex marriage to bestiality. In June 2013 he stated “Not one country that has allowed same-sex marriage has moved to legitimise polygamy or bestiality for the simply reason they’re not linked, legally, socially or culturally.” In an article on website On Line Opinion entitled The slippery slope to homophobia, Croome countered the ‘slippery slope’ arguments that claim marriage equality will lead to incestuous relationships and multiple partner relationships, calling them ‘fear mongering’.
In August 2013, AME announced that they would distribute leaflets to "over half a million Australian voters" with information about their local candidate's stance on marriage equality. Rodney Croome highlighted a poll released by the Australia Institute finding that same-sex marriage was the fourth most important issue to 18-25 year old voters. A Fairfax Nielsen Poll later that month found that 65% of Australians supported marriage equality, while only 16% said the issue was "very important" in deciding their vote. AME convener Rodney Croome commented that there is a "huge gap" between public acceptance of same-sex relationships and the low level of support for same sex marriage among politicians.
Same-sex marriage was introduced for the first time in Australia in the Australian Capital Territory in December 2013, but the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013 was subsequently voided by a legal challenge to the High Court. However AME said the ruling was just "a temporary defeat". Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd proposed that same-sex marriage go to a referendum in June 2013, but the offer was rejected by AME and the Greens.
Rodney Croome has criticised the tactics of the Australian marriage-equality lobby-group Equal Love as "counterproductive and unrepresentative" to the movement, which he claimed drive away the elderly and people of faith, echoing other criticism of the group in the Star Observer. A committee member for Equal Love argued Croome launched an "unsubtle attack" and defended their tactics, stating "a visual display of community outrage over the issue emboldens those who want change"
With the introduction of same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom, same-sex couples, where one or both of the partners are British nationals, will be able to marry at British consulates in Australia from June 2014 (for which AME congratulated the government), however their marriage will not be legally recognised in Australia.
Australia's intersex community expressed concern, with Tony Briffa, Vice President of the Organisation Intersex International Australia saying that as AME does not advocate marriage equality for everyone, it should change its name. A legal opinion was sought from the Australian Human Rights Law Centre regarding same-sex marriage for trans and intersex people. Croome agreed with the Centre's findings saying, "Ultimately, equality means equality for all."
- Coalition of Activist Lesbians Australia (COAL)
- LGBT rights in Australia
- List of LGBT rights organisations
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