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Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Page: 8968


Senator LEYONHJELM (New South Wales) (12:38): I'd like to indicate that I will support these amendments. I don't believe they are as good as the amendments moved by Senator Brandis or, indeed, by me, but their purpose is the same—and perhaps I'll end up voting for all three of them. What these amendments seek to do is extend the freedom to refuse to solemnise a marriage to all civil celebrants in addition to religious celebrants. Senator Dean Smith's bill only proposes to extend this freedom to religious celebrants. I'd like to outline two arguments, which I think ought to appeal to the Labor Party and the Greens, as to why they ought to support these amendments.

I'm really disappointed, actually, that we only have three Labor senators in the chamber. This is disturbing because it suggests they're not engaged as they no longer have a free vote now that we've reached this stage. They get a free vote at the second reading, they get a free vote at the third reading, but, in between, they are bound by their party discipline. It's very disappointing. Nonetheless, there are two good arguments that ought to appeal to left-leaning supporters of legalising same-sex marriage. Now, I'm a supporter of same-sex marriage. I have been since my first speech in this place. But I'm not left-leaning. Nonetheless, my view is religion should not be afforded a privileged place in a secular state. People who are religious have convictions; people who are not religious have convictions. And they still have freedom of conscience, as much as people who are religious. People who are not religious should not be treated as second-class citizens. Secondly, if we fail to extend the freedom to refuse to solemnise a marriage to all non-government celebrants, we are left with a situation where celebrants who only want to solemnise straight marriages can do so under the cover of religion, but celebrants who only want to solemnise same-sex marriages will not be able to do this, because there's no religious cover for such a decision. We will, in fact, be hurting the gay community.

I believe these amendments should be supported; the one that seeks to achieve the same purpose, moved by Senator Brandis, ought to be supported; and the best of all is my amendment, which seeks to achieve the same purpose.