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Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Page: 6759

Senator XENOPHON (4:37 PM) —The incorporated speech read as follows—

I support the second reading of this bill and note that my comments relate to both of the Same Sex Relationships bills currently before the Senate. These bills have generated considerable debate in the community, evoking responses from those who are in strong support and those who strongly oppose. Many opponents of these bills see the proposed measures as ‘sanctioning’ same sex relationships. Meanwhile, many supporters would argue that these bills are not about special rights, they are about equal rights.

A generation ago, the South Australian Parliament led other parliaments around Australia in repealing laws that criminalised homosexual conduct, and those laws, in turn, were part of changing a culture of homophobia and outright hostility towards homosexuals. I believe those changes to the law were an unambiguously good thing.

I am old enough to remember the terrible and tragic death of Adelaide University Law School lecturer Dr George Duncan, who died essentially as a result of being a homosexual man in the wrong place at the wrong time. He drowned as a result of a hate crime. It was a immense injustice. I still remember from my time in law school in the mid 1970s when Horst Lucke, one of our lecturers, was involved in a campaign for justice to unearth the truth of what happened to Dr George Duncan, his colleague.

It is a blemish on my state and South Australia’s justice system that the investigation into his death was deeply flawed and charges were not brought in a timely manner against the perpetrators of the incident that led to his death. That a person died because of their sexuality is the ultimate tragic result of ignorance and discrimination. However, if any good can be said to come from Mr Duncan’s death, it was that archaic laws in my state were forced to change.

Over thirty years later, these events continue to underpin my support for the end of any form of discrimination against same sex couples. Thus, I support the broad intent of these bills. To those who oppose the bill because they believe it will undermine the institution of marriage, I respectfully disagree with that proposition.

I do not believe it is inconsistent to support the institution of marriage and to also support the removal of discrimination against same sex couples. Members of Parliaments are trusted to do a lot of things. One of the most fundamental tasks that we are given is to protect our citizens. And that means protecting them from discrimination. I support the second reading of this bill.