Gay laws open door for child marriage: Lib

Recognising overseas gay marriages could force Australia to recognise child marriages too, a Liberal senator has warned parliament.

"If we start making changes against our sovereign law in the interests of one group then why not the other groups," David Fawcett said on Thursday.

"If we’re going to be consistent… then we need to start recognising things like child marriage, which I think clearly Australians would reject."

The Senate is debating a private bill, proposed by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, that seeks to recognise overseas same-sex marriages.

Senator Fawcett said doing so would create a loophole to Australian law, encouraging gay couples to go overseas and get married, despite it not being legal in Australia.

Greens senator Robert Simms said the tragic case of a British man who was refused next-of-kin status when his husband died in Adelaide highlighted the need for national laws to recognise overseas gay marriages.

The bill would end cruel and draconian inconsistencies that exist between states, after the gay man’s death certificate read ‘never married’, despite him dying on his honeymoon.

But if Marco Bulmer-Rizzi’s husband David died 400km east in NSW, the marriage would have been acknowledged.

"He had to go through the pain of reading `never married’ on his husband’s death certificate," Senator Simms said.

"The cruel reality of these laws have been exposed by this tragic incident."

Several states including NSW and Victoria recognise overseas same-sex marriages, but others such as Western Australia and South Australia don’t.

Senator Simms said recognition should not stop at state borders.

Senator Fawcett said the bill would not address the root cause of the problem faced by Mr Bulmer-Rizzi.

"The remedy for the kind of problems that he faced… is actually found in state legislation."

Outspoken Liberal senator Cory Bernardi said the bill could also force Australia to recognise polygamy.

"You could go to Saudi Arabia or some of the Islamic countries where it’s legal for a man to marry four wives.

"Should we be expected to recognise that in this country?" he said.

Senator Bernardi said the bill would encourage people to subvert Australian law, forcing recognition of foreign laws that were inconsistent with its own.

He accused gay marriage advocates of "sneakily" trying to further their cause without going through the proper consultation process with the Australian people.

"You’re jumping the gun – you’re trying to force something upon this country that it hasn’t accepted as yet."

Nationals senator Matthew Canavan said the Greens had no respect for other people’s viewpoints, attempting a backdoor change to the definition of marriage.

If Australia does vote to change the definition, he will respect the views of voters, he said.

But he won’t support any change that undermines the right for people to carry out their religious beliefs.

Senator Canavan believes changing the definition will remove colour and imagination from life because there will no longer be a word to describe the union of a man and a woman coming together to have children.

"We should have a particular institution and a particular word to describe the creation of the next generation."