Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws — General Law Reform) Bill 2008
I have said this before but now I think is the point in the debate to say it again and emphatically: the opposition utterly oppose this proposition and we utterly oppose the logic that underlies it. It is not discrimination against gay couples or gay people to say that marriage is an institution between a man and a woman. There has never been a culture in the whole of human history that has recognised a gay relationship as a form of marriage, until very recently when there have been changes to the law in some states of North America and some European countries. To say that an institution sanctified by centuries—indeed, millennia—of custom and practice is an institution between a man and a woman is not to say that people whose sexual orientation is other than heterosexual are being discriminated against; it is merely to describe an institution for what it is.
Senator Hanson-Young, the opposition accept the government’s good faith in this and the opposition have striven to reach a position where we have bipartisanship on the principle underlying this legislation. That principle, as was stated by the minister before, is the principal of nondiscrimination against people in homosexual relationships which resemble de facto heterosexual relationships. The way in which that has been approached has been to equate, for all practical purposes and in relation to all of the consequences, a relationship between a gay couple and a relationship between an unmarried or de facto heterosexual couple. That is the relevant equivalence. That is where we establish equality of treatment. It is not a denial of equality of treatment to say that marriage, historically a religious custom as well as a civil status, is an institution which exists between a man and a woman. The opposition utterly reject the suggestion that the position we take is a discriminatory position. We utterly reject that it is socially desirable or useful to alter in a fundamental way the character and status of marriage, which is why the previous Howard government amended the Marriage Act with the support of the then opposition, if my memory serves me correctly. That is why to intrude this issue into this legislation is really to be diverted from the non-discriminatory intent or purport of the legislation itself.