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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 1033

Senator PRATT (Western Australia) (17:16): Today, in the tabling of this report, we see a significant step forward in the path to marriage equality in our country. It has been wonderful to work across the parliament with my colleague Senator Kitching and senators from the Liberal Party, the Greens and the crossbench—I give my thanks especially to the chair, Senator Fawcett—to find consensus on the details of marriage laws. It has been a pleasure to work through these issues with you in a collegial manner, even when we have differing views.

The work of our committee demonstrates that it is not difficult to create laws that uphold both religious freedom and the freedom to marry. The work of the committee shows that we can make progress on marriage equality in this parliament without compromising the rights of those who hold different views about marriage. We can, for example, extend access to civil marriage to all adult couples, while allowing religious ministers and religious celebrants to only perform marriages in accordance with their own doctrines and beliefs.

These issues are personally important to me. For myself, I would like the right to be married. Please do not ask me about my plans to get married because I cannot yet make them until this parliament addresses those laws. But I recognise that the beliefs and aspirations of Australians are deeply held. As the report shows, people in the LGBTI community who want to get married do not want to exercise these rights at the expense of other people's freedoms. On the day we make promises to love our partner in sickness and in health, we want to be surrounded by the people who respect and support the commitment we are making. We know and understand that people of faith feel the same, including many GLBTI people of faith.

I know that my own beliefs about marriage are deeply personal and the last thing I want to do is impose my views on others who take a different view about its definition. To do so would be a great disservice to its importance and to the couples, the communities of faith and the GLBTI community. I know gay and lesbian couples and trans and intersex people excluded from the Marriage Act around the country feel the same. I, and thousands of GLBTI Australians want the right to marry. We also understand that Australians of faith want to uphold marriage in accordance with their own doctrines and beliefs. As this report shows, that is not difficult to do. I commend the report to the Senate.