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Monday, 18 June 2012
Page: 6642


Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (10:35): I rise today to present the report of the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 and the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012, which responds to private legislation that proposed to legalise marriage for same-sex couples.

In accordance with standing order 39(f) the report was made a parliamentary paper.

Mr PERRETT: To use the words of Australian rugby's open side flanker: 'I believe every human being is precious and we're all part of God's family. Marriage is a beautiful thing and should not be used as a weapon to promote prejudice.'

Australians have usually been ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to removing discrimination. This nation's proud initiatives include providing the vote for women, repealing discriminatory immigration policies, protecting employment for married women and enabling Indigenous Australians to participate fully in the democracy that had blossomed on their continent, although this recognition of the first people's right to vote did not occur until after my first birthday—I am not as old as I look.

Reducing discrimination in all its forms is a matter of social justice. All Australians are people worthy of respect regardless of their age, their religion, their race, their gender, their sexual orientation, their occupation, their level of income, their abilities or their choice of lifestyle. In recent times, there has been growing recognition of the discrimination that same-sex couples experience, both socially and legally, as family units. I am proud to have been a part of the Commonwealth parliament that in 2008 rectified in a bipartisan way many of the financial disadvantages that same-sex couples endured compared to their opposite-sex, de facto and married counterparts. The opportunity to take the step of publicly declaring a couple's love and commitment by entering into a marriage is the final discriminatory hurdle for same-sex couples. It is indefensible and unjust that two people who love each other are unable to marry each other because of their sexual orientation. I firmly believe that marriage is still the best way to protect every committed monogamous relationship.

It is timely for me to remind everyone that God did not write the Marriage Act. It was written by lawyers and legislators in ink, not in stone, and must reflect the views and values of Australians today. Every member of parliament is charged with the duty of ensuring that all our laws best protect the values and beliefs of all the people we represent today—not yesterday and, equally so, not tomorrow. To achieve this end I fully support the legalisation of marriage for same-sex couples and the intent of both the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 and the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012, introduced by the member for Throsby.

Just as we look back in disbelief to the day in my lifetime when Indigenous Australians could not vote in their own country or when homosexuality was illegal, it is now time to enact this legislation and raise future generations of children who will not believe that once upon a time same-sex couples in Australia could not marry. The love between same-sex couples is no different to that of opposite-sex couples and deserves no less of the public recognition, celebration and symbolism which the wonderful institution of marriage bestows on all committed relationships.

I encourage each member of parliament to read this report before voting on the bills. I appreciate that there are many differences of opinion among us, as there are across the country; however, we have the weighty responsibility of upholding the views of the constituents who elected us to this position. We have a duty to lead, as well as to represent our constituents, and to vote accordingly. I encourage the House of Representatives to remove this final vestige of discrimination against committed same-sex couples. Should such legislation be challenged, let us hope that the High Court recognises that the Constitution should not be frozen forever in the social attitudes of 1901 when Queen Victoria ruled the waves and this land of ours.

I congratulate Mr Adam Bandt, the member for Melbourne, on being the first MP to introduce into the House of Representatives a bill to legalise same-sex marriage. I warmly thank him for his contribution to the inquiry as a supplementary member of the committee. The committee is honoured to have been part of this important debate. I thank all of the committee members, especially the deputy chair, the member for Pearce, the Hon. Judi Moylan. I thank all of the other committee members, great and small, for their efforts in carefully considering the bills and asking the important questions. Despite a considerable diversity of views among the committee, I am grateful for the bipartisan spirit shown in preparing this report to guide and support our strong and independent parliament. (Time expired)