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Thursday, 20 September 2012
Page: 7467

Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaParliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water) (11:45): I rise to speak on this Marriage Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2012. The bill has been introduced by four members of the Labor Party and is very similar to legislation that was introduced and voted on yesterday in the House of Representatives that was quite overwhelmingly defeated by a margin of 98 votes to 42 votes. So I think it is probably worth making the point that, even if this bill was to pass this chamber, it would not succeed in the House of Representatives, based on that vote yesterday.

I am already on the public record as indicating that I oppose same-sex marriage and nothing in the debate that has occurred over this week has allowed me to change my mind in respect of that. As a result, I will not be supporting this legislation and I continue to believe that marriage as it is defined in the Marriage Act, as marriage between one man and one woman, is the appropriate definition of marriage.

I am comforted in that position by reading the dissenting report by individual Labor senators on a similar bill that was introduced by Senator Hanson-Young from South Australia. The senators make a number of points. Firstly, in 2008, discrimination against gay and lesbian couples was removed in the federal parliament in respect of federal legislation. Secondly—and it is worth quoting—they note:

In our view, changing the law so that marriage includes same-sex unions would be to change what marriage means. Currently marriage involves a comprehensive union between a man and a woman. Marriage has a place in law because a relationship between a man and a woman is the kind of relationship that may produce children. Marriage is linked to children, for the sake of children, protecting their identity. It is worthy to note that in California after their legislature experimented with same-sex marriage, the people of California voted against the revisionist concept of marriage.

The additional point that I think is worth making from this report is the issue that relates to human rights. They say at 1.10 in their report:

We do not take as a genuine claim the suggestion that same-sex marriage is a fundamental human right. The European Court of Human Rights has in the past three years twice stated that that there is no human right for same-sex marriage.

We are fortunate on this side of the chamber to have a conscience vote on this issue. This is the first time I have exercised my conscience vote. I feel comfortable that the decision that I have made is the correct one. But I think it is worth making the point that, even if the opposition did have a conscience vote, I do not believe the result of yesterday's ballot, or for that matter of this one today, would be any different. But I do congratulate the Prime Minister for her very strong stand in respect of this issue and the fact that she has put her authority on the line to allow a conscience vote for members of the Labor Party.

Like most of the people in this chamber, I have received lots of communications from members of the public about this issue. I think it is safe to say that the communications that I have received are running two to one against making the change sought by this legislation. Many of the letters, particularly by those who are opposed to the legislation, have been thoughtful and personal letters explaining in their own way why it is that they oppose this change. Often in these sorts of circumstances you get form letters. In this case they have been thoughtful letters explaining why they believe we should not change the definition of marriage.

Mr President, as I said, this has been the first opportunity I have had to exercise a conscience vote in this place. I went to the 2007 election indicating I was opposed to a change to the definition of marriage. That continues to be my position and I will be voting against the bill.