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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31462


Mr ORGAN (10:01 AM) —The Marriage Amendment Bill 2004 is a disgrace. It is quite clearly discriminatory. It discriminates against those 20,000 couples in Australia that the ABS has recently told us want to be married, who are living as married couples and who are not heterosexual—they are part of the lesbian, gay and transgender community. There are 20,000 couples out there—perhaps 40,000 Australians—or more. As the ABS said, those figures are undervalued. This is 2004 we are talking about. The government seems to be living in the fifties and seems to deny everything that has happened in regard to so-called gay liberation and rights for people of other sexuality. The government has its head in the sand on this matter.

The government are discriminating against the gay and lesbian community—there is no doubt about that—and it is a disgrace that the Labor Party are also supporting this discrimination. The Greens do not support this discrimination. We support the gay, lesbian and transgender community in our society. We now have before us an amendment to the Marriage Act stating:

Marriage ... is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

In this day and age in Australia—and we are talking about Australia here; we are not talking about America, Canada or anywhere else—there are gay and lesbian couples living in loving relationships as married couples. We cannot deny this. It is not going to change. It is part of our society and we have to embrace it. It is disgraceful for the government to come into this place—and for the opposition to support them—and to blatantly discriminate against those people.

Since this issue has been raised in the last couple of weeks, my office has been inundated with calls of support from the gay and lesbian community. Obviously there is some division in that community about marriage itself and the whole institution of marriage, as there is in the wider community. Not everyone wants to get married. As we know, there is a high divorce rate and there are de facto relationships as well. But a large number of people in the gay and lesbian community do not want to be discriminated against and want to live as married couples. I have stood in this House and given some examples of that. For this bill to insert this new definition of marriage with the words `voluntarily entered into for life' begs the question: if the union is `for life' in this bill then surely there must be some amendment to the Family Law Act—where does divorce come into it?

The Greens cannot support this bill. It is a backward-looking measure. It is blatantly discriminatory. I will be seeking to introduce the following amendment to this bill:

(1) Subsection 5(1):

Insert

“Marriage means the union of

(a) a woman and a woman

(b) a man and a man

or

(c) a woman and a man

to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”

(2) At the end of section 88B:

Add: To avoid doubt, in this Part (including section 88E) marriage has the meaning given by subsection 5(1)

(3) After section 88E

Insert:

88EA Certain Unions are marriages

A union solemnised in a foreign country between:

(a) a man and another man

(b) a woman and another woman

or

(c) a woman and a man

must be recognised as a marriage in Australia

It is a sad day for this parliament to be introducing such discriminatory legislation. This government seems to want to deny that there are thousands and thousands of ordinary Australians out there who are being discriminated against based on their sexuality. The minister has not addressed that issue. We have heard the Prime Minister come into this place and say, `I'm not going to discriminate against anyone based on their sexuality,' yet here we have a blatant example of the government and the opposition supporting discrimination against ordinary individual Australians based on their sexuality. This simply cannot be condoned.

The government are using the institution of marriage. Marriage does mean, in part, the union of a man and a woman, but, as I have pointed out, in this day and age in this country, marriage is more than that. There are individual gay and lesbian couples living in loving, caring marriage relationships, asking that they not be discriminated against in the many areas that they are—for example, superannuation, entitlements, living as married couples et cetera. It is not up to this parliament to interfere there—not at all. I condemn the government for this bill and I condemn the ALP for supporting its introduction.