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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 1055

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (19:58): It is with great pleasure that I rise to speak on the motion that has been brought to this House by the member for Denison, and I thank him for raising the matter. This morning, my local newspaper, the Illawarra Mercury, carried on its front page a story about two young couples in love. Both had something in common—that is, both couples were engaged to be married last year. I am very pleased to say that Trevor and Denise Gaskell did get married and that they have had a child together. The best man at their wedding was a man I met last weekend, a fellow by the name of Peter Bearman. Peter also got engaged last year to his partner, James Pollack. Trevor and Denise come from Port Kembla, in my electorate, and Peter and James live in Dapto. The thing that is different between Trevor and Denise on the one hand and Peter and James on the other is that the law permits Trevor and Denise to get married but prohibits, in this country at least, Peter and James being married. In every respect they are two ordinary couples making their way in life in the Illawarra.

Peter is a diesel mechanic and James is a university student. It is their fervent hope and the hope of their mother, whom I met last weekend, that one day they will be able to get married here in Australia. It is with that story in mind that I moved in the House today a private member's bill that would amend the Marriage Act 1961 to permit couples like Peter and James to get married here in Australia.

I think we in this country have moved beyond the years where gay and lesbian couples were thought of as outcasts who had to be ashamed of their sexual identity. Their sexual identity was thought by many to be sinful and something to be ashamed of. Australia has moved a long way over the last several decades. All the social stigma that attached to sexual identity has, quite thankfully, become a thing of the past. I say in this place today that it is time for our marriage laws to reflect the change that has occurred in society at large.

I said earlier today that I believe that God made us all equal but different, not differently equal. By this I mean that if a person's sexuality means they wish to marry somebody of their own sex then they should be able to join together, make a voluntary commitment to each other for life to the exclusion of all others and have that commitment granted the same status as my marriage when I married my wife 13 years ago. I understand that for many this concept may still be confronting. I have said on numerous occasions that it does nothing for the cause of marriage equality if we stand on a mountain and shout abuse or heckle or belittle those who still find this concept somewhat confronting or at odds with their belief about how we should order things. However, at the same time that we must understand that some people find it uncomfortable, we should not retreat from the fundamental belief that I hold, and that is the right to equality of treatment and the removal of discrimination in all vestiges of Australian law as a human right—something that we as legislators do not create.

We have an obligation to recognise and protect. That is why I am happy on the one hand to be supporting the motion being moved by the member for Denison to be proffering a private member's bill in the House today. It is why I am proud that the Australian Labor Party has changed its platform and policy in relation to this matter. Equally, I am also proud that our party has taken the view that this is a matter of conscience. I hope that that is the position adopted by all parties in this place, because I think in good conscience that the Australian people expect us to ensure that our laws reflect the change in views in society and that we are able to provide the same measure of equality to same-sex couples in their relationships as I enjoy as a straight male who decided 13 years ago to get married. (Time expired)