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Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Page: 8310

Mr BUTLER (8:27 PM) —I rise to speak in favour of the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws—General Law Reform) Bill 2008. I also had the pleasure of speaking in favour of the first bill introduced by the Attorney-General as part of a suite of measures to address business that has been left unaddressed for far too long.

In the government’s view, the truest measure of an enlightened society is how it treats difference and diversity. The history of humanity, it is fair to say, has been pretty ordinary at that, and, for most of our history, we have seen awful discrimination on almost any grounds imaginable. I, and many others in the House and in the other place, have been lucky enough to live through an era which has seen the most significant advances in addressing that discrimination in the history of humanity. The fight against discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, religion, political belief and many other grounds has been very significant in recent decades and has achieved much. To be very clear: that fight, in almost every area possible, has not been won. Discrimination on all of those grounds and more continues to exist.

One ground of discrimination with which we are dealing tonight—discrimination on the grounds of sexual preference—remains a deep and continuing scar on our society and many other societies in the world. Over recent years and decades, the legal sanctions against sex between consenting adult males have disappeared in Australia, it is fair to say. But those advances are not locked down and in many other parts of the world remain very fragile advances indeed. Several jurisdictions in the United States continued, until very recently, to outlaw that sort of practice and continued the discrimination against gay and lesbian persons in their jurisdictions until the Supreme Court, in the case of Lawrence v Texas in 2003, invalidated all of those laws in several states of the United States of America on the grounds of the due process provision in the Bill of Rights. The focus here, and to some degree in the United States, has shifted from that fight, which has largely been won in Australia, to the treatment and status of same-sex relationships. Again, much of the heat that we have heard from the other side of the House comes in a reflected way from the—

Debate interrupted.