Law Society of Tasmania Opposes Marriage Equality Plebiscite

Today, the Law Society of Tasmania announces that it is opposed to the holding of a plebiscite in respect of marriage equality. Instead, the matter should be dealt with by way of a free vote in the Parliament without delay.
The Law Society previously declared its support for marriage equality on the basis that equality before the law, including regarding marriage, is a rule of law issue. That is, all people should be treated equally by the law and have the same rights and obligations under the law. Presently, so far as marriage is concerned, that is not the case.
The basis of the Law Society’s position is: –

  • Rule of law issues such as equality before the law should not be subject to a popular vote. It is not appropriate for the rights of minorities (such rights being already enjoyed by the majority of the population) to be subject to the popular vote of the majority. This position is consistent with the position of the Australian Human Rights Commission;
  • The Federal Parliament has the clear power to legislate in respect of marriage and its definition without the need for a popular vote, noting that such a vote is not binding on the Parliament in any event. On that basis the plebiscite in entirely unnecessary. The Parliament’s power in respect of marriage was confirmed by the High Court in 2013;
  • The Parliament’s job is to determine those matters over which it has jurisdiction. To “contract out” its role in respect of marriage equality, but not other difficult matters, is itself treating the issue unequally.

The President of the Law Society, Matthew Verney, said

“I call on the Federal Government to abandon the planned plebiscite. The Parliament can clearly determine the matter. It did so when the Menzies Government introduced the Marriage Act and it did so again when the Howard Government changed the definition of marriage in 2004. There was no plebiscite held on those occasions”.

Mr Verney also said

“It is dangerous to subject to the whim of a popular vote the rights of minorities. Regardless of popularity, people are either equal or not.”

Matthew Verney
0438 248 708
20 September 2016