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Monday, 19 October 2015
Page: 11677

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (Werriwa) (11:32): At the outset I congratulate Australian Marriage Equality, PFLAG, other members who have played a greater role than I in putting this bill forward and, in my own electorate, Jeff McGill, a proud Catholic who as Editor of the Campbelltown Advertiser has done so much to ensure that the discrimination toward and marginalisation of people around same-sex inequality has been exposed to the public.

I am not the archetypal person to be here co-sponsoring this bill. Whilst you might often find me at demonstrations and meetings for Kurds, Palestinians, Rohingyas, Copts, Karens, Ukrainians, Bosnians, Timorese, West Papuans and Tamils, I have never found myself at the annual Mardi Gras, but there is no contradiction. In the same manner as I campaigned for those people's human rights, it is crucial that we change these laws to end the marginalisation of people in our society.

I want to say on a personal note that I have experienced my very opinionated granddaughters, who are particularly active on this issue. One of their best friends, who they describe as a 'gayby', was raised by same-sex parents. When I see people decry the supposed negative impacts of how children will be raised if we change these laws, I can only say that many of the dysfunctional heterosexual couples I see raising children in my electorate would be well served to see the love and nurturing that is provided by these parents to their daughter. She is a well-adjusted human being—an Australian actress of some renown—and her example, her lifestyle and her raising has been very informative to my grandchildren and thereby me.

Marriage is not owned by any religious group nor, more succinctly, by religious interpretations within those religious groups. It is not stagnant. It is not a thing that has been in stone for centuries. It was only, in actual fact, when the Roman Empire in 342 AD went over to Christianity that same-sex marriages were formally banned. It was only in 1967 that the United States, in the case of Loving v Virginia, allowed miscegenation—people of different racial groups could marry. Sixteen states in the United States, even in 1967, banned an African descended person from marrying a white. In 1959, in this very country, Mick Daly, a white drover, travelled with Gladys Namagu, an Aboriginal woman. As a result of this, the Northern Territory bureaucracy considered the matter and decided that Daly was not a suitable person to marry Namagu. He was convicted and placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond, and she was moved to another settlement. If we go back to colonial Australia, only convicts described as 'those of soberness and industrious' were allowed to marry. So it is not as though these things have been unchanged over centuries.

I want to say that, in the manner in which I say that you fight for human rights around the world, it is equally necessary to fight to change people's rights to marry in this country. This is upheld by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which indicate that reference to sexual orientation and bias and discrimination against people in regard to gender are a protected ground for action.

I want to say that we have not seen the dire consequences that have been warned about. In two of the early countries to move on this front, Belgium and the Netherlands, we see that 85 per cent of Dutch citizens in a poll in 2013, 12 years after these laws were changed, were supportive of the change. We know that in Canada, where it was done by court action, the support in the population rose from 43 per cent before that change to 57 per cent by 2012. Returning to Belgium: 71 per cent of Belgians supported same-sex couples 10 years after legislative change.

It is not necessarily that the majority of people are right, but there is an international trend that stretches now through the United States, Canada and western Europe as far as Iceland and Greenland, and we have seen it in this country. The same people who came to me a few years ago and said, 'Laurie, you've got to vote with what the majority of Australians think,' are now saying: 'Ignore them. Follow your conscience.'

I want to finally quote briefly from a letter from one of my constituents that makes it so clear about south-west Sydney and the need to change attitudes there. It says:

As I'm sure you can imagine, growing up as gay in South-Western Sydney can (at times) be rather difficult. While I have mostly been lucky to not be on the receiving end of discrimination or harassment—with a few rare exceptions—many of my friends who live in the area have not been so fortunate and have been the victims of violence or have been kicked out of home simply for revealing who they were.

To have our local member proudly stand up against this, and indeed strongly in support our dignity and equality, I think is a really great thing.

I very much commend this legislation. (Time expired)

Debate adjourned.