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Wednesday, 29 November 2017
Page: 9188

Senator RICE (Victoria) (13:04): I feel incredibly proud and humbled to be here in this chamber today as we are about to pass this historic legislation. I am proud to be here as a representative of the Greens and to be here representing those millions of Australians who have been working for equality for so long, for whom it has been such an important issue, who voted for equality and who are going to be so overjoyed when this legislation finally passes through the House of Representatives, hopefully next week. And I feel humbled because I am here at this place in time and it's been a campaign that has gone on for so long.

The Greens, as you know, were the first party in this parliament to introduce legislation for marriage equality, very soon after the law was changed in 2004. As Greens parliamentarians, every vote, every parliament, every time, we have voted for equality. So, for all of the Greens representatives who are here today, particularly Senator Hanson-Young, who had the equality portfolio before I did, and for the Greens that have come before us in this parliament, particularly former senator Bob Brown, who fought so hard, who campaigned so hard and who raised the issue of equality and ending discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people for so long, I really feel grateful and thankful that I have now got the privilege of being the representative. It is momentous, and I feel very privileged and humbled to be the one here in this Senate chamber as we are about to pass this legislation.

In particular, not only do I feel that I stand on the shoulders of giants when it comes to those from within the Greens; I absolutely feel that I stand on the shoulders of giants when it comes to the community, to all of those campaigners who, over so many years, have been fighting for equality. So many of them are in the chamber with us today. We have got people from Australian Marriage Equality—Alex Greenwich is here, as well as Tom Snow and Anna Brown, who have played a leading role—along with so many other community organisations who have been so much the face of this campaign. We have Equal Love, who had rally after rally after rally in Melbourne and Sydney, fighting for this. I think of their determination to work and fight for equality and their belief that we were going to get there one day. We've got the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and particularly the work that Shelley Argent has led over so many years, fighting on behalf of their families. We've got Rainbow Families, who played such a significant role when we worked to defeat the proposal for a compulsory plebiscite, knowing how hurtful that was going to be to rainbow families across the country. They played an incredibly important role and continue to do so. I want to pay special tribute to Felicity Marlowe.

The person who is in the chamber today who I really want to acknowledge in particular is Rodney Croome. I am glad he was able to be with us today. Rodney is here, along with Ivan Hinton-Teoh from Just Equal. Rodney has been this absolute, stalwart campaigner who hasn't given up, who has kept campaigning with people from right across the country to achieve what we know we are on the cusp of achieving today. And it's going to be a massive achievement.

I've been proud to stand up in this chamber for the whole rainbow spectrum: for lesbian and gay people, for bisexual people, but particularly for trans people and gender-diverse people as well as intersex people. Trans people and gender-diverse people have suffered incredible vilification and hatred being directed to them, particularly over the last two months. In fact, the attacks on them have continued in this chamber right up until this morning. So, yes, trans people deserve to be loved as well. Trans people are normal; trans people are equal. They are part of our wonderful family. I am very privileged to be here representing trans people in particular.

I know that, once the legislation gets through the Senate today and through the House next week and passes and finally becomes the law of this country, it is going to be a massive difference. We are going to wake up the next morning and realise that things have changed, that our legislation now reflects the views of the Australian community, that we are respected, that we are equal, that there is fairness and dignity, but, above all, that we are loved and that our relationships, our loves, are considered equal and that we are loved by the Australian community as equals. And that is going to be a beautiful thing when we achieve it after this legislation has been passed.