THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
Over the Easter long weekend I went to beautiful Tasmania for a wedding. Friends and family of the couple had gathered from around the country and around the world. There wasn't a dry eye as the mother of the groom, a marriage celebrant, married the couple as the first light drops of autumn rain fell from the sky. When twin rainbows emerged over the Huon river like a purpose-made backdrop just in time for the photos they seemed a fittingly optimistic symbol.
This young woman and man were celebrating the journey they've made already, and declaring to their friends and family that they're in it together, for the long haul.
It is truly beyond me how something so joyous should be denied to a whole group of Australians just because the person they've fallen in love with is the same gender.
Marriage is, for some, a religious sacrament. No-one I know is suggesting that churches should be forced to provide that sacrament against the rules of the church. But marriage is also a legal commitment made before the state, and a celebration involving family, friends, and community. There is no ethical justification for the state denying same sex couples the legal rights and responsibilities marriage brings, nor our community denying the public acknowledgment of the legitimacy of same sex relationships.
The Australian community is way ahead of their government on this: more than three in every five Australians support marriage equality.
More than 20 other nations have already taken this step, including, recently, the country where my parents were born, Slovenia.
Opponents of marriage equality say marriage is traditionally between a man and a woman, but many of our traditions have evolved - and improved - over time.
Opponents say that marriage is for having children: well, many same sex couples are already parents. And many couples who don't want children, or can't have them, still choose to marry.
Opponents say that same sex marriage devalues or mocks marriage. The opposite is true - it shows how important marriage is that so many are prepared to fight so hard to be allowed a right that others take for granted.
For over a year I have had a private members' bill ready to introduce into the parliament to change the marriage act to allow same sex couples to marry. I would like one brave Liberal or National party member to co-sponsor my bill to show that bi-partisanship is possible on this issue. But unless Tony Abbott allows his MPs a conscience vote on marriage equality any legislation is doomed to fail. It's time the Australian parliament removes this last legal discrimination against same sex couples, because almost equal is not good enough.
This article was originally published in MAMAMIA on Tuesday the 7th of April 2015.