Same-Sex Marriage

I spoke in parliament tonight on same-sex marriage, the fifth major speech I've given on this topic (and the fourth in parliament). (Links to previous speeches)
Same-Sex Marriage, 27 May 2013

This is the fourth occasion on which I have risen in this place to speak on the topic of same-sex marriage so I do not intend to recite the arguments and the cases that I have spoken about in previous speeches nor my respect for those who have a different viewpoint on this.

What I do want to do in the short time available to me is to broaden the philosophical basis for same-sex marriage. The case has, I believe, been made on the basis of equality—a value which many Australians hold dear and which is fundamental to our unique Antipodean notion of egalitarianism. People have spoken about same-sex marriage in the context of social justice and the recognition and protection of fundamental political and civil rights. But in my view the equality case is equally matched by a small 'l' liberal case for same-sex marriage and by a conservative case for same-sex marriage. Recently, conservative leaders in the United Kingdom and New Zealand have moved to allow conscience votes on the floors of their parliaments to take place on same-sex marriage—a marker as to how quickly attitudes are changing on this critical issue.

Prime Minister Cameron has said that he supports same-sex marriage not in spite of his conservatism but because of it. He says:

‘I think marriage is a great institution - I think it helps people to commit, it helps people to say that they're going to care and love for another person. It helps people to put aside their selfish interests and think of the union that they're forming. It's something I feel passionately about and I think if its good enough for straight people like me, its good enough for everybody and that’s why we should have gay marriage and we will.’

New Zealand conservative Prime Minister John Key said: 'My view has been that if two gay people want to get married then I can't see why it would undermine my marriage'. In New Zealand's parliamentary debate over the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill earlier this year, conservative MP Maurice Williamson delivered a rousing speech that went viral on the internet. He spoke from what I would regard as a small 'l' liberal perspective when he said:

‘… all we are doing with this bill is allowing two people who love each other to have that love recognised by way of marriage. That is all we are doing. We are not declaring nuclear war on a foreign state. We are not bringing a virus in that could wipe out our agricultural sector for ever. We are allowing two people who love each other to have that recognised, and I cannot see what is wrong with that for neither love nor money. I just cannot. I cannot understand why someone would be opposed. I understand why people do not like what it is that others do. That is fine. We are all in that category.

‘But I give a promise to those people who are opposed to this bill right now. I give you a watertight guaranteed promise. The sun will still rise tomorrow. Your teenage daughter will still argue back to you as if she knows everything. Your mortgage will not grow. You will not have skin diseases or rashes, or toads in your bed. The world will just carry on. This bill is fantastic for the people it affects, but for the rest of us, life will go on. So do not make this into a big deal. This bill is fantastic for the people it affects, but for the rest of us, life will go on.’

That is a beautiful exposition of the small 'l' liberal case for same-sex marriage.

I want to speak briefly about the personal experience of Reverend Janis R Huggett, a constituent of mine who wrote to me last year and said:

‘I am a retired Uniting Church ordained minister who would certainly have experienced both personal joy and legal benefit from being able to marry my partner before she died three years ago. Instead, I had to cope with her brother challenging her will and being forced to continue to declare my legal as 'never married' rather than 'widowed'. After all our years together, that is so unjust. The church has been much more supportive than the government, in case you are wondering about Christian views on this subject.’

I would like to recognise many of those on the other side of the house who would like to vote for same-sex marriage if a conscience vote were allowed, including the member for Longman, the member for Higgins, the member for Wentworth, Senator Sue Boyce, Senator Simon Birmingham, and New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell.

I come to this from a perspective of equality. I acknowledge the hard work of Rainbow Labor, of activists such as Matthew Donovan, who worked as an intern in my office and helped prepare these remarks. But I hope that others will recognise that there are many good philosophical bases on which to ground same-sex marriage. It is not a battle between gay and straight, conservative and progressive, or left and right. It is an issue which ought to allow all of us to speak for our own electorates, and I hope the Leader of the Opposition will allow his party to do just that—a value that is in the spirit of his party.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.