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Thursday, 20 September 2012
Page: 7439

Senator McLUCAS (QueenslandParliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers and Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) (09:31): I am in continuation from my contribution from last night and, as I indicated to the chamber last night, I will be supporting the Marriage Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2012.

Today I want to talk about a group of people who need understanding and support as they come to understand who they are and how they relate to others. They are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex young people, particularly those living in rural and regional areas, who simply do not know where to turn for support and advice. As the country again talks about gay issues, this time through the lens of marriage equality, it is these young, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people who hear the language of exclusion and rejection, who hear words that trivialise them as making mere lifestyle choices and who hear words that question their very being. As our country's leaders—as people who fill the newspaper columns, the TV screens and the radio waves, who tweet and Facebook—we must be responsible. We must choose our words carefully. Ill-chosen words certainly hurt, but at their worst they damage irretrievably.

Along with the thousands of emails we have all received, one stuck in my memory. Jay—not his real name—is now 17. He lives in a regional Queensland city. He is bright; he gets As for maths, Bs for chemistry and As for art. He is a sporting leader in his school. He says that he has, 'an amazing bunch of friends who love me. The reason why they love me is because I stand for what I believe in'.

Just over a year ago Jay came out. Unfortunately—and this is, very sadly, the reality for many young people—his parents did not take it well. He says in his email to me, 'In the society we live in today, to be gay is only frowned upon by the older citizens ranging from twenties onwards. Can you not realise that the younger generation are ready to accept what should have already been accepted?' He rightly objects to being stereotyped as sexually deviant and as camp. He is a resilient, thoughtful young man who said, 'I honestly want to be able to settle down with someone I love in the future, receive the benefits I deserve as a human being who is in a relationship and have a family with kids I'll cherish'.

Jay is not alone. There are many young voices that call for recognition and respect for themselves and their circumstances. There have been myriad government and community reports over the last 20 years about the life experience of young men and women coming to grips with their sexuality, particularly in regional Australia. Terribly sadly, we know that in regional areas the outcomes for some have been tragic. It is our job to respect and include people whose sexual orientation may be different from our own. It is our job to make sure that our language is respectful and understanding; that it includes and does not exclude.

This bill is about people; real people who love and cherish. I leave the last words with Jay: he says, 'Stop being so close minded and factor in people like me when you make your decision. I am only 16'—he was at the time—'and I have more of an open mind than most other citizens'.