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Thursday, 12 August 2004
Page: 26561

Senator GREIG (4:49 PM) —I move Democrat amendment (1):

(1) Schedule 1, item 1, page 3 (lines 7 and 8), omit the definition of marriage, substitute:

marriage means the union of:

(a) a man and a woman; or

(b) a man and a man; or

(c) a woman and a woman;

to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into.

And the Democrats oppose schedule 1 in the following terms:

(2) Schedule 1, item 3, page 3 (lines 13 to 19), to be opposed.

Democrat amendment (1) is to help make clear, since the original bill was mooted, that we are strongly opposed to the government's attempts to use gay and lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people as a political wedge. We have consistently attempted to achieve reform in this area for some years and we support an end to discrimination of all kinds of GLBTI individuals.

We too propose that discrimination within the Marriage Act ought to be removed, to the extent of broadening the opportunity for those who might seek civil marriage. So for us amendment (1) would change the definition of marriage or substitute it so that marriage would be: `The union of a man and a woman, or a man and a man or a woman and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into.' We make the point that, in coming up with that definition, it struck as odd that so frequently throughout this legislation—and indeed, as I understand it, the legislation that will be passed—the definition of marriage includes the words `for life' at the end of it. In other words, marriage is voluntarily entered into for life. But, of course, there are many people who do not enter into marriage for life. That would certainly be their aspiration, their expectation and their hope, but many marriages end in separation and divorce. It seems a falsehood to us to claim that marriage is entered into for life, because that is simply factually untrue. It may be the aspiration, but for so many people it is not the case. We have narrowed that definition so that it simply reads `to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into'. Certainly we support and endorse the aspiration, but we think that to legislate for a definition that would ensure that marriage has to be for life is just not a factual reflection of society.

The Democrats also oppose item 3 in schedule 1. The intention of this is to effectively ban overseas marriages to prevent the recognition of foreign marriages in Australia. We strongly oppose that. I have spoken to that at length already. We argue that, simply because other Western democracies have gone down a greater human rights path than we in Australia have, and many now formally recognise same-sex civil marriages, we ought not be in a position to deny that. That means that those Australian citizens who may lawfully marry overseas ought to be regarded as lawfully married in Australia. The intention of the first part of these two amendments is, firstly, to broaden the definition of marriage to do the reverse of what is before us in terms of allowing for same-sex marriages; and, secondly, to overturn the proposed ban on recognising overseas marriages from comparable jurisdictions which do recognise and validate civil marriages for same-sex couples.