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Monday, 17 June 2013
Page: 5989


Mr RIPOLL (OxleyParliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer and Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business) (18:45): Firstly, I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012, which would change the Marriage Act 1961 to ensure that all people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity have the opportunity to marry. That is what this bill does. The bill also reverses a number of amendments made to the Marriage Act in 2004, which continues to recognise the basis of sexuality and gender identity, but this bill would prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages entered into under the laws of another country. This is certainly an issue that has been brought forward by many people. The current situation is that the marriage overseas of same-sex couples is not recognised in this country. But the Australian government provides a certificate of no impediment to same-sex couples travelling overseas to get married. While we do not recognise it here in Australia, we certainly do not impede the ability of same-sex couples who choose to marry.

One of the important parts of the current law is that when those couples come back to Australia they are recognised as a de facto couple and are not discriminated against under the laws of this country in their legal rights or responsibilities. Labor is very proud of that. This is not a new debate. Labor are very proud of the fact that we have made something like 85 changes in law to make sure we do not discriminate against people. I am a big believer in that. I really believe that we should not discriminate against any person on the basis of their race, their gender, at their sexual orientation or anything else, including if a man and a man or a woman and a woman choose to marry.

This parliament has had a long history of conscience votes, and I think that is the right course of action on this issue. I would not force my view onto any other member of this parliament or any member of the community for that matter. I respect that people have different views in this area. Some are very deeply-held views—views that go to the people's personal moral beliefs, their ethical beliefs, their faith beliefs or just their views on how people ought to be treated in this country. But I do not take away from any individual their right to have those particular views nor any member of this chamber. I think the great strength of the Australian democracy is that these matters, particularly matters of conscience—and I think that this is one of them—come to this chamber and to this parliament, that we can have a sensible debate and that the view of the parliament can be carried and then we can we move on. That is one of the great strengths of our democracy, by any measure.

There have been something like 30 conscience votes since 1950. When you think about it that is actually not a lot, given the tens of thousands of bills and things that are brought to this chamber. Very few have actually been a matter of conscience. During my time as a member, there have only been four: human cloning research, including use of embryos; RU486; and same-sex marriage. I took a principle stand on all of those, from the information that was presented to me at the time, from my own research, from consulting with my constituents, from my own belief structure and from my own views on what my vote should be—in the end, regardless of what people put forward to me as 'numbers', in the sense of, 'Does it slightly fall more one way, or slightly more the other way in what my constituents would think?' My own belief in that area is that you can never win if that is the way you operate. As a member of parliament, you are actually given a responsibility—that is, to act on your conscience, and to do that you need to be able to do that for the right reasons.

I do have to say, though, that my own view is that this parliament will at some point in time support same-sex marriage. I think same-sex marriage is not the thin end of the wedge in terms of other issues. I also do not believe same-sex marriage is a threat to the marriage of others, though some people think that by allowing same-sex marriage you threaten their marriage. Same-sex marriage is not a threat to children; there is no evidence to support that view. Same-sex marriage does not threaten the family. Same-sex marriage is not a threat to our way of life. Same-sex marriage is, as we know, legal in many countries, though not uniformly—some states have different views. I believe the community is changing its view as well because it is seen as being an issue of equity. If this bill does come to a vote, unlike my previous vote I will now be supporting this bill.

Debate adjourned.