Senate debates

Monday, 17 September 2012


Marriage Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2012; Second Reading

10:21 am

Photo of George BrandisGeorge Brandis (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Attorney-General) Share this | Hansard source

Many of whom are married—quite right, Senator Pratt. But equally there are many who do not, many of whom are unmarried. Everybody in this community is entitled to their view of what a marriage is. For you, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, to stand up and proclaim, 'My view of what a marriage is is the only legitimate view that should be listened to in this debate,' reeks of the posturing, conceited approach which the Greens and your fellow travellers have taken in this debate from the start. The fact is that if you change the definition of 'marriage' then that does affect people who have a more conservative view than your own. People who are married and for whom the marriage has a particular meaning have an interest in the way society defines 'marriage'. For you in your argument to eliminate their views—to say these views are not worthy of consideration because they are discriminatory against gay people—is a towering conceit.

I agree with Senator Hanson-Young that discrimination against people on the grounds of their sexuality is always wrong, but it does not follow from that proposition that every institution in society, for that reason, must be redefined. I might point out that, when it comes to taking the lead in eliminating sexuality based discrimination, my side of politics has at least as much to be proud of as the Labor Party or, for that matter, the Greens.

As I pointed out when the Senate considered the same-sex relationships equal treatment in Commonwealth laws bill in 2008, the very first measure to remove discrimination against gay people, or homosexual people—the term 'gay' had not then crept into the usage—was in fact initiated from within the Liberal Party in the South Australian parliament in 1972 by the late father of the former distinguished leader of the Liberal Party in this place, Mr Murray Hill, the first Australian parliamentarian who own behalf of the Liberal Party moved to decriminalise homosexuality. The first time the issue was raised in this parliament was on 18 October 1973, almost 40 years ago, when no less than a former Liberal Prime Minister of Australia, Sir John Gorton, proposed that homosexuality should be decriminalised in the ACT.

As I said before, the law which removed discrimination against people on the basis of their sexuality from all Commonwealth laws was passed through this Senate during the time of the Rudd government with the support of all parties. I acknowledge that that legislation was initiated by the Rudd government. Both sides of politics, the Liberal Party and the Labor Party, have been responsible for significant measures which have removed discrimination in this field. It is both uncharitable and historically ignorant to suggest that my party has not been to the forefront of many if not all of those measures.

In closing, let me merely say this. No decent person, in my view, would discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation. To do so would be as wicked as to discriminate against a person because of their race or because of their religion. But one can hold that belief, as I do, without saying that an institution defined by law and by custom and, at least in many senses, by religion requires to be redefined. That is what you seek to do. It is not, in my view, a genuine antidiscrimination measure. It is, so far as the Australian Labor Party is concerned, a measure with which I know a lot of Labor politicians—like Senator Farrell, who I see sitting in the minister's chair at the moment—feel deeply uncomfortable. And it is a measure brought before this parliament by the Greens facilitated by the Labor Party, in flagrant breach of an election promise. Let me conclude where I began: my side of politics, the coalition, went into the 2010 election promising not to redefine marriage in the life of this parliament. We will stick to that commitment and oppose the bill.


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