Thursday, 7 December 2017
Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017; Consideration in Detail
I should start by acknowledging the member for Warringah's kind offer to pay for the entire celebration party tonight! That might be worth the extra hour delay!
This is similar in some respects to amendments that we've considered earlier during today's proceedings. I particularly wanted to focus on one aspect, and that's extending a conscientious objection to all celebrants. This is a principle that I understand opinions are legitimately divided on, but it's not one that I concur with. As I said earlier today, the role of the celebrant is to be an agent of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth's laws. They are not ministers of religion. I note, for example, that these amendments don't seek to extend the same protections to, say, state registrars at births, deaths and marriages, who also conduct marriages under the law.
So, we do have a divide, quite sensibly, between those that are conducting marriages under religious rites, and those that are conducting marriages under the law. That's why I don't support extending any exemptions to celebrants, other than those already contained in this bill, and that's why I won't be supporting it.
This is the last occasion on which I intend to rise during the course of this week's long debate. Before I sit down, I did want to say a few other things. Firstly, I want to sincerely thank all my parliamentary colleagues on both sides of the chamber for what I think has been an outstanding debate. But I also wanted to acknowledge those in this corner who have worked so hard on this issue for such a long time. Of course, I refer to the member for Brisbane, Trevor Evans, and the member for Goldstein—Tim Wilson-Bolger!—and the member for Leichhardt, who is temporarily absent, so I'll say while he's absent that earlier today we had a photo of all the LGBTI members of the parliament, and everyone said, 'Where's Warren?' We had to remind ourselves that he's not actually gay! But I think we can make him an honorary gay. His leadership has been outstanding. I also want to again thank, in front of this gallery, those in the Equality Campaign, led so ably by Alex Greenwich, Tom Snow, Janine Middleton—who I saw up there before looking very Mosman!—Tiernan Brady and of course the incredible Anna Brown and that whole team that did so much.
Two years ago this week the voters of North Sydney sent to this chamber the first openly gay member of the House of Representatives. At the time, I was the first openly gay member—though I suspect that I probably wasn't the first gay in the village over the parliament's 116 years! But, nonetheless, I raise that because, in the lead-up to that election, many people wondered whether the community, in a lower house election, would embrace an openly gay candidate. And, of course, they did, because, as they should have, they judged me on my merits.
Two years later, people wondered whether Australians would embrace the relationships of their fellow gay and lesbian sisters and brothers, and, of course, we know they did, so resoundingly. What they said was that they understood that a same-sex relationship was no less committed, no less loving, no less difficult, no less beautiful and wonderful than any other relationship. Today we fulfil the wishes of the Australian people, and, in so doing, we leave this parliament making Australia, I think, a far better place.
During the course of campaigns there are often slogans—often some great slogans. Who will forget 'Jobs and growth', which was a great slogan! But I want to conclude by saying that there are three words this year that have touched the hearts and minds of all Australians: 'Love is love'. And, as we celebrate the Christmas spirit, I'm sure that's something that we can all agree on.