SPEECH: Marriage Equality Bill, Monday 15 June 2015

 

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

SPEECH ON MARRIAGE EQUALITY BILL 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, CANBERRA

MONDAY, 15 JUNE 2015

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Maya Angelou wrote: “Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

We are full of hope when we say I want to walk through life by your side.

When we say I want to share the good times, and the bad, with you.

When we say I want to grow old with you.

Neither hope nor love are so common nor so cheap that we should deny their legitimacy because of gender.

As a legislator, I am proud of the fact that the previous parliament changed 85 laws to remove discrimination against LGBTI Australians and same sex couples. That’s Labor’s legacy. That’s behind us.

What’s before us is a final challenge: to remove this last great inequality from same sex couples.

How can it be fair to deny one group in our community, citizens of Australia, the legal protections and responsibilities that marriage confers?

In a few years time, the notion that two men who love each other, or two women who love each other, could be barred from the social and legal status that marriage confers, will seem as anachronistic as laws which prevented Aboriginal Australians marrying whom they chose.

No-one can imagine today, that Jack Akbar and Lallie Matbar had to fight for years in the 1920s to be allowed to marry because Lallie was Aboriginal and Jack was not.

Indeed, Lallie was gaoled after she and Jack eloped. Their four children never knew the barriers their parents had to overcome to marry until after their deaths.

The state being able to deny marriage on racial grounds is obscene to us today.

And so it will be in the future for same sex marriage.

This is not a question of tolerance. It is a question of legal equality.

This bill makes it clear that no church will be forced to marry any couple. But our government, and our legal institutions, should not discriminate.

In the lead up to the Irish vote, author Sebastian Barry wrote, “I don’t see it as a matter of tolerance, so much as apology. Apology for all the hatred, violence, suspicion, patronisation, ignorance, murder, maiming, hunting, intimidation, terrorising, shaming, diminishment, discrimination, destruction, and yes, intolerance, visited upon a section of humanity for God knows how many hundreds of years, if not millennia.”

Sebastian Barry’s gay son was just short of 18, and too young to vote. Barry wrote,”By voting YesI will be engaging in the simple task of honouring the majesty, radiance and promise of his human soul.”

I hope that by making this change, we will make it clear to every young man or woman, shamed or shy about their sexuality, struggling alone to come to terms with being different from their brothers and sisters; their best friends: it’s just fine. It will be fine. We accept you how you are.

And we’ll be saying to the same sex couples who have loved each other tenderly for years or even decades, who have supported each other financially and emotionally, nursed one another in sickness, and woven their families together: we see you.

And we’ll be saying to the many many kids who have two mums or two dads, or both: we know you’re proud of your family. You have every right to be.

It is time, it is well past time, that this Parliament says to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians – we recognise that you love. That’s more important than who you love.

So, to paraphrase William Shakespeare, let us not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.

I commend the Bill to the House.

ENDS