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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 5005

Mr WILKIE (Denison) (20:11): I have spoken on this issue many times in this chamber and in the main chamber, so I do not think I need to talk in detail about my views on marriage equality other than to summarise and to make a few points very quickly. I respect the fact that within my electorate there are a broad range of views on this issue, and I certainly respect the views of my constituents who might have a view different to my own. But as I have gone about my work—and I have met many people—it has merely served to confirm in my own mind that it would be the right thing to do to amend the Marriage Act to allow people of the same sex to marry. In saying that, I emphasise that I respect the views of those who disagree with me, and I have sought to represent them within my electorate and in this place, but I am firmly of the view that the Marriage Act should be changed—in fact, it will be changed one day; the only question is exactly when it will be changed.

I believe it must be changed for a number of reasons. For a start, you cannot outlaw love. I believe that two people, whether they be a man and a woman or two men or two women, if they love each other, are entitled to the same right to marry as any other couple. I also believe that the Marriage Act as it is currently worded and as it was amended by the Howard government is nothing short of legislated discrimination. This parliament has virtually ended legislated discrimination in a broad range of other acts of parliament, but it is remarkable that in this act the legislated discrimination remains, and I believe that that should be done away with. The way to do away with it is to do away with the requirement that a marriage be between a man and a woman. It should merely be between two people, and that includes two men or two women.

But, having said that, of course churches are private institutions, and they must be allowed to choose who they marry. I think it has been a very important component of the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 and of previous attempts to bring about marriage equality in this place that, when we do change the Marriage Act—and we will one day—it must be explicit that the churches retain the right to choose who they marry.

This is an issue where I think people should be allowed to follow their hearts, which means that it needs to be a conscience vote. It should be a conscience vote, and I remain very disappointed that the opposition is continuing to refuse to allow a conscience vote. I note that the tradition and the public statements from the Liberal Party make it quite explicit that it is a party that allows its members to follow their conscience on each and every vote. So it is remarkable that, on this matter, the opposition continues to refuse to allow the members of the Liberal Party to do what the Liberal Party has allowed in the past for many other issues, what the Liberal Party says that it is quite proud of, and that is to allow members to follow their conscience. One day they will be allowed to follow their conscience, and I think that will significantly alter the outcome of that vote at that time.

This is not a personal attack on the Leader of the Opposition, but I do worry that, although it was famously said that he 'gets' women, I am not sure that he yet 'gets' gay people and their fundamental right to be able to choose who they love and to formalise that with a marriage under the Marriage Act. I call again on the opposition leader to do what his party says it allows and allow his members to follow their conscience and vote accordingly. Then we will know for sure what the genuine will of this parliament is on this issue.