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Thursday, 20 June 2013
Page: 3509


Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia) (10:47): I rise to support the Marriage Act Amendment (Recognition of Foreign Marriages for Same-Sex Couples) Bill 2013, which my colleague Senator Hanson-Young has brought before the chamber as part of a long and somewhat arduous campaign in favour of something that we in the Australian Greens believe is completely obvious. I want to acknowledge and congratulate Senator Boyce for the contribution that she just made. Those sorts of contributions are all too rare in this place. When people are considering matters and voting on their conscience, the quality of the debate is measurably improved. So thank you, Senator Boyce, for having the courage to do what you have just done. The only qualification I will make is that, in the Australian Greens, we do have a conscience vote on all matters. You have to go back quite some time in the Hansard record to find that being exercised, but we do vote with our conscience on all of these matters. I think it is part of the reason for our success.

This in fact is a rights issue, and they should not have been hung up inside the Labor caucus on whether or not it was a conscience issue. This matter should really have been dealt with many years ago. What we are attempting to do here is undo a grave mistake that was legislated by the Howard government nearly a decade ago. So of course we support this amendment. As Senator Hanson-Young has so ably pointed out, this is not the whole picture; this is a piece of the puzzle. It is also something that we consider to be self-evidently a worthy amendment, because this is straightforward discrimination. We in this parliament need to respond to the fact that people are fired for who they fall in love with. People are unable to speak up at work. They can have their children turned away at school. There are all kinds of other forms of subtle and much less subtle discrimination, up to and including homophobic violence. We cannot build full equality in parliament alone. We know that we cannot do it by this simple amendment, or by a straightforward amendment to the Marriage Act, but we here are called to do our part and to do what we can to remove legislated black-letter discrimination on the Australian statute books. That is one thing that we can do. We should show that kind of leadership here on Capital Hill.

We know now that in all parties in this parliament there are strong undercurrents of support for this measure and the broader measure that it implies—the straightforward legal recognition of marriage no matter what your sexual orientation. This form of discrimination is still legal in Australia, under laws that senators from the other parties have chosen not to change—with the honourable exception perhaps of Senator Boyce, as she has just indicated. This is something that we can remedy. Homophobic violence is real. Being young and LGBTI in rural Australia remains a difficult way to start your life and something that, tragically, some people do not make it through. We parliamentarians cannot make every Australian understand the imperative for equality overnight, but we can make our laws equal. At the moment, they are not. Not only are our marriage laws unequal and discriminatory here; they are also unequal and discriminatory for couples married overseas who come here. That is what this straightforward bill seeks to address.

I want to acknowledge Senator Hanson-Young for her long and tireless advocacy for this cause. As a senator representing Western Australia, I also acknowledge the remarkable advocacy, persistence and straightforward bolshiness of the marriage equality movement and the equal love movement in Western Australia. My colleague Lynn MacLaren MLC has moved for legislative change in the Western Australian parliament in the event that this national parliament should fail in its obligation to remove discrimination from the statute books. We are all, in here, representatives of a much larger movement and undercurrent in society. It is not a simple breakdown by age. It is not simply a generation gap thing, although you can see the very large numbers of younger people coming out for whom this is quite simply self-evident. We know therefore that this is really only a matter of time. So my question to you, colleagues, through you, Acting Deputy President, is: if not now, then when? This is something we could remedy this morning should we choose to. I strongly commend this bill to the chamber.