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The ridiculously disappointing history of marriage equality in Australia

And we still haven’t achieved marriage equality. C’mon guys…

By Katie Stow

There's been a fair bit of buzz surrounding marriage equality in Australia, with talks of a free vote and politicians crossing the floor to vote in favour of legalising same-sex marriage.

We don’t want to get our hopes up just yet, as we know — after political parties have broken their promises before about a plebiscite — that these things often take WAY TOO LONG. (Despite the fact that Germany, publicly discussed same-sex marriage and legalised in one week.)

But the hype had us thinking: how has Australia got to this point? And what have been the roadblocks along the way?

What we discovered, unfortunately, is that the current mayhem follows a long, sad history of offensive laws, acceptance of violence, and discrimination against the gay community, and very little progression.

Welcome to Australia’s ridiculously disappointing history of marriage equality:

1788: The British colonise Australia and import their ~questionable~ legal system, including a hell of a lot of anti-gay laws.

1901: Fast forward a few centuries and Australia federates, so state and territory governments start to make their own laws, but really, they just adopt variations of the British anti-gay policies.

1949: Victoria downgrades anal-sex from a crime punishable by death to a crime punishable by 20 years imprisonment. Improvement, yes. But still makes us feel sick that anyone was punished for being who they are.

1975-1976: SA and ACT decriminalises male acts of homosexuality. THIS WAS A BIG DEAL.

1976-1977: Victorian police arrest around 100 men for homosexuality in a summer law enforcement campaign. They actually sent in police pretending to be gay to entrap offenders. Shady and damn disrespectful.

1980-1981: Victoria decriminalises male acts of homosexuality. Bit behind the other states, but better late than never! The state also sets a common age of consent of 18 — but other states and territories stick to their mismatched legal ages for sex.

Late '80s: NT and NSW set the homosexual age of consent to 18 (while heterosexuals remain at 16). ACT equalises age of consent so both straight and gay consent age is 16. WA keeps their age of consent for homosexuals at 21. Eurgh.

1992: The gay panic defence kicks in. This is truly shit. This legal defence basically means that a murderer can convince a judge and jury that the person they killed showed a display of homosexuality, which would ~obviously~ make any ‘ordinary person’ temporarily and suddenly lose control, and that loss of control would result in a murder. Cue the eyerolls, as this really is total bullshit. But, unfortunately, a man who killed a homosexual in 1992 has his charges downgraded from a murder charge to manslaughter. If you weren’t raging before, you must be now.

1997: The gay panic defence becomes national law. WTF?! There have now been 10 cases where it was used and the accused had their punishment reduced.

1997: Tasmania formally decriminalises homosexuality. FINALLY.

2003: Tasmania abolishes the gay panic defence. Progressive six years for Tassie.

2004: ACT allows same-sex couples to adopt.

2004: Despite previous politicians deliberately not defining what constitutes marriage in the Marriage Act, the Howard Liberal government amends the Marriage Act to explicitly exclude same-sex couples from marriage. Marriage is now defined as the "union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life."

2004-2008 ACT, NSW, WA and Victoria abolishes the gay panic defence.

2013: The Gillard Labor government legislates an amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act making it illegal to discriminate against LGBTQI+ people.

2013: ACT passes same-sex marriage legislation. Buuuuut around a week or so later, the High Court overrules the legislation. We’re back to square one.

2015: The Abbott Liberal government commits to a national plebiscite on same-sex marriage. Though this is a step towards marriage equality, Australian people seem annoyed that it has to be done this way, and think this is a time-wasting tactic.

2016: The national plebiscite is blocked in the Senate, after Labor goes back on their word to vote for it. Another prime example of party politics getting in the way of doing the right thing.

2016: Rallies, marches, campaigns and call-outs see Australians urging their politicians to legalise same-sex marriage. AKA there is a big push from the public to get shit done.

2017: Still no plebiscite, still no free vote, still no legalisation of same-sex marriage. Marriage equality still has not been achieved in Australia.

What’s worse? All of this is still left to be done…

• SA still has the gay panic defence legally in place
• NT still hasn’t legalised same-sex couples adopting
• Men who have had sex with another man in the last 12 months are not allowed to give blood
• Married transgender people have to divorce their partners to transition
• Schools and hospitals that have religious affiliations are still exempt from LGBTQI+ anti-discrimination laws