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Monday, 25 February 2013
Page: 752


Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (18:00): 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 2013 seeks to amend the Marriage Act 1961 to provide equality for same sex couples. The Bill removes the existing discrimination in the federal Marriage Act that confines marriage to between a man and a woman. It redefines marriage as being between two people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Greens share the view of the majority of Australians that the institution of marriage should be available to all loving couples.

The road to equality has been long, sometimes fraught with controversy, and in Australia we are yet to reach our final destination of marriage reform. But it will happen and I believe the time is now. The call for marriage equality has huge community momentum in Australia which is growing day by day. The most recent national survey found that 62% of Australians believe same-sex couples should be able to marry, and 75% of Australians believe reform is inevitable.

The Australian Greens share the view of the wider community that marriage equality is an inevitable reform and in 2013 we are the only party committed to bringing it in.

This is the third time I have introduced a bill for marriage equality. On each of my two previous bills, the Senate conducted in-depth inquires which highlighted the significant community interest in marriage equality. In 2009, the inquiry into my bill received more than 25,000 submissions. In senate inquiry into my second bill in 2012 set a new record of 75,000 submissions, the majority of which were supportive of the bill. It is clear there is enormous community passion for this.

The inquiry into my bill recommended that, with a few small amendments, the bill should pass.

Sadly, in 2012 we saw votes in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate on government marriage equality bills that were carefully orchestrated to fail. The Leader of the Opposition chose to buck the traditional approach of his party by refusing Coalition members a conscience vote. Meanwhile the Prime Minister failed to have her members support the ALP's own policy of supporting marriage equality by insisting on a conscience vote.

I know there any many members in both houses who share the Greens' commitment to marriage equality. But with both leaders standing in the way of equality, the final count wasn't quite enough to bring on this inevitable reform.

Well, the Greens will never give up. We still have a bill in both houses of parliament for marriage equality. We will show the leadership that the leaders of the other parties refuse to show.

The Greens consider marriage equality to be central to our agenda and we will honour that promise throughout the election campaign and into the new Parliament until marriage equality finally exists in Australia.

While the big parties hold up federal reform and their leaders stand in the way of history, the rest of the world is rushing ahead. In recent weeks we have seen the United Kingdom and France embrace marriage equality, joining many other nations who have already embraced marriage equality.

In Australia, the states and territories are showing the way, with Greens and non-Greens bills for state marriage equality across the nation. States such as Tasmania and South Australia have shown cross-party cooperation and are on the cusp of bringing in marriage equality to their state. When they do, they will benefit from a significant boost in tourism and local wedding industry productivity.

Since I introduced my first marriage equality bill, many state Parliaments have been 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 has legislated for same-sex parenting rights.

These are important and historic reforms and the efforts of MPs and advocates in our states and territories are to be admired and acknowledged. But it is federal marriage equality that the community wants most of all.

This Bill has been updated with all the minor amendments recommended throughout the last year, and it is ready to be passed into law. The Greens will do all we can to bring in marriage equality and this bill is the vehicle to make it happen.

I commend the bill to the Senate.

Debate adjourned.