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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 5004

Ms BRODTMANN (Canberra) (20:07): I rise tonight to reiterate my position on marriage equality, which I have spoken about before in this parliament. After much thought over many years, I am convinced the debate around marriage equality is fundamentally an argument about justice and that all people should be equal before the law. So, in good conscience, I have had no other choice than to support marriage equality.

Over the years I have honestly tried to weigh all the arguments in this debate. Many people try to convince me not to support marriage equality. In doing so, they have urged me to consider the children of same-sex unions. It caused me to reflect on my own family. I would have preferred that my father had not left my mother when I was 11. It was not my choice, it was not the choice of my sisters and it was certainly not the choice of my mother. It was the choice of my father. I bitterly resent and take deep offence at the suggestion that I was not raised in a family or that I am damaged or dysfunctional because I was raised by a single mother, because families come in many forms. Over the ages, children have been raised by aunts, by uncles, by grandparents, by siblings, by cousins, by friends, by benefactors, by the church, by the court, by nannies and by boarding schools. What is critical is that children in all circumstances are loved, respected, nurtured and safe. The construct of a family did not matter to me. The only thing I needed to know when I got home from school was that I had someone there to reassure me, to nurture me and to tell me that I was okay and that life was okay.

Then there is the experience of my wider family. I am the proud godmother of Alice Rose Uhlmann-Foy. She is a precocious young girl with an unbridled passion for potato chips, and she is a girl well on her way to being Prime Minister. I find it impossible to believe that she could have more devoted parents than Elizabeth Uhlmann and Kate Foy. Both know that nothing is more nurturing than the love of family, and the world is a better place because Liz and Kate have two beautiful daughters, Alice Rose and Emma Kathleen. I cannot deny to them anything that I would wish for myself, and the best thing in my life is my marriage. My marriage stabilises me, energises me and constantly encourages me to be better than I am. Liz and Kate know that their life has not been an easy thing for some in our family to reconcile, but we all know that and we understand that, and we love them for it.

I have met with many, many constituents on this issue, and I have been struck by the strength and passion of both sides of the argument. For the most part, both sides have been deeply respectful. However, I have also been struck by the intolerance of a handful of people around this debate calling for tolerance. I have also been offended by the suggestion that those who do not support same-sex marriage are necessarily homophobic. The constituents I have met who are opposed to same-sex marriage are not homophobic. Like those who support it, they are driven by a deep faith and deep morality, and I respect that. But I respectfully disagree.

I call on all of my parliamentary colleagues and activists on both sides to maintain a respectful tone in this debate on this very important issue. It is, after all, a debate that is so deeply personal to so many. I am also firmly of the belief that no church should ever be forced to marry same-sex couples, and I will never support that. But the state already recognises unions like de facto couples that churches do not. Before the law of this Commonwealth, all women and men should be equal, no matter their colour, no matter their creed, no matter their sexual orientation, because people have the right to choose the individual they love, and, if they choose to marry, the state should not stand in their way. Strong relationships are the foundation on which we build a strong community.