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Monday, 18 March 2013
Page: 2464

Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (11:05): I am pleased to speak in support of the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012, because I believe that all Australians, irrespective of their sexuality, are entitled to be treated equally. Marriage is one of those institutions that has evolved over time. Despite the protestations of some people suggesting that it has been frozen in time and handed down from Mount Sinai, the reality is that previous speakers are quoting from legislation that has only been around less than a decade.

I approach this from a pretty basic point of view—that is, if people are committed to each other, if people are in love with each other, and wish to have society recognise that committed relationship, why should society not permit them to express that commitment via the institution of marriage? Obviously when it comes to religious institutions that is a different process, and the process of changing the views of religious institutions is something different. But we are a secular institution. We in parliament might start each day with a prayer, but we are a secular institution. Our Constitution provides for that. We also protect religions. Our Constitution provides for that. But we as a parliament must do what is best for all Australians, and how we can say to two people who are in love with each other that they cannot have a committed relationship recognised by an institution like parliament is beyond me.

I should stress that this is not the No. 1 issue in the electorate of Moreton. There are cost-of-living issues, there are people concerned about employment, there are people concerned about making sure that their job is secure and there are people concerned about education, health and the like. I understand that, but I think we as a parliament have time to revisit this. I thank the member for Melbourne for reintroducing this legislation. He served on the committee that I chair which looked at this bill—a committee that had the greatest number of submissions in the history of Federation; a committee whose members had a broad range of views. I see in the chamber the member for Latrobe, who was also a part of that committee.

The reality is that, if the member for Warringah agrees tomorrow to let the members of his 'free-thinking Liberal Party' have a vote and this legislation was passed, it would not change anything in terms of how I see my wife tomorrow. It would not change anything in terms of how I approach my family, school et cetera. But it would let people who love each other and who are committed to each other have the protections of an institutional arrangement that society has recognised for hundreds and hundreds of years as being a good thing.

The reality is that society has changed. Once upon a time, and not that long ago, homosexuality was in the DSM—the book used by psychologists in terms of approaching it as a treatable disease. Things have changed. It used to be in the Criminal Code in Queensland. Things have changed, though there is still some discrimination in Queensland in terms of the age of consent for homosexuals compared to heterosexuals. The reality is that most of society has moved on and recognised that same-sex attracted people deserve all the same rights, the same treatment and the same respect as every other person. This piece of legislation is an important step to ensuring that.

I would urge those opposite not to just stand up and say, 'I care' or 'I would if I could'. You can. If those opposite believe this then, unlike the people in the Labor Party, who are bound by our rules that say we cannot go against the directions of the Labor Party unless we wish to become an independent, they can stand up and protest and say, 'I would support it.' But caring is doing; caring with words is hollow. You need to show how you care by how you vote. So I will be interested to see if we are allowed to see the member for Wentworth and some of those other more liberal-thinking members of the coalition support this piece of sensible legislation. I urge them to so do.