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Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Page: 307


Senator HANSON-YOUNG (4:18 PM) —I present the explanatory memorandum and I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

The Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010 seeks to amend the Marriage Act 1961 to provide equality for same sex couples. The Bill would remove discrimination under the Marriage Act so that while marriage is still a union between two consenting adults, it is not defined by gender. 

The Greens share the view of a majority of Australians that discrimination within the Marriage Act should be removed and that marriage should be available to all loving couples, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

The road to equality is a long one and the issue of same-sex marriage will not go away. Last year I introduced my Marriage Equality (Amendment) Bill into the Senate and it was subject to Inquiry. The Bill smashed Senate records, receiving more than 25,000 submissions - more than any other Senate inquiry. It is clear there is enormous community interest in this.

In February, my Bill was put to vote - the first time a Bill to amend the Marriage Act in this way had been debated and voted upon in the Senate. Unfortunately, the Bill was defeated with only the Greens in support.

I vowed to keep fighting and I promised to reintroduce my Bill for a second time, in the new Parliament. Indeed marriage equality was a key part of the Greens’ election campaign agenda. Today, on the first day of the new Parliament, I honour that commitment.

I must say the result on August 21 gives me a great sense of optimism for our country.  For the Greens it was clearly a historic election, and the first hung Parliament in 70 years produces some unique opportunities. For the first time a Bill initiated by any individual Member of Parliament, has a chance of succeeding. For the first time, the winner doesn’t take all and all parties have an opportunity to truly be heard in this place. This means the issues that the major parties have tried to sweep under the carpet, will be exposed and debated. To quote Independent Member Rob Oakeshott and The Prime Minister, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” 

One of the things that was clear to me when I spoke to voters throughout the country during the recent campaign, was the groundswell of support for marriage equality. In fact that groundswell would be clear to both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott as they were quizzed about marriage equality on the campaign trail. From Rudy Hill, Q and A and talkback radio this was a question that people everywhere were asking. Same-sex marriage was an issue that came up in every election forum and it won’t go away in this, the ultimate people’s forum, the Parliament.

Since I last moved to introduce my Bill, many state Parliaments have active on human rights for Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender and Intersex Australians.  While no substitute for marriage, Tasmania has legislated for civil unions and NSW have legislated for same-sex parenting rights.  These are important and historic reforms. They reflect the groundswell of public support for true equality for LGBTI Australians. Considered in the context of same-sex marriage in Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, Spain, South Africa, Mexico and many states in the United States - it’s all the more important that our national Parliament should not lag behind. 

Now my Bill is back on the Senate notice paper, I intend to lobby the leadership of all parties to allow their members a conscience vote. I know there any many members in both houses that share the Greens’ commitment to marriage equality. In this new Parliament, every vote counts. Let us ensure that we truly act in the spirit of this new politics, and give all members the chance to vote for legislation on the basis of merit, not on the basis of who puts it forward.  These are exciting times - let’s make the most of them, and we can start by removing outdated discrimination and providing true equality for same-sex couples.


Senator HANSON-YOUNG —I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.