Senate debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Statements by Senators

Gender and Sexual Orientation

12:45 pm

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

Before I begin the main subject of my speech, I want to address the debate which occurred in this place this morning over a bill which claims to prohibit the indoctrination of children, and I want to make it clear to young LGBTIQ+ community members who may have been listening that they are loved and treasured and valued. Know that views that are grounded in fear and disinformation, be they loud, will never win.

I want to start my contribution with a quote: 'We now must be weary of wherever we think is our sanctuary.' This is just one of the recent tributes after the horrific shooting at Club Q, a gay nightclub in Colorado. It was absolutely heartbreaking to see another hateful attack directed at a vulnerable minority group, and I send my condolences to the family and friends that have lost loved ones so unnecessarily.

Like many of our proud lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer venues here in Australia, Club Q was a safe place for self-expression without judgement. These are places where everyone, especially the LGBTIQ+ community, should be able to be themselves and love without fear.

In my home state of Tasmania, there is a proud and vibrant LGBTIQ+ community that regularly comes together to celebrate and support each other. This weekend, even, the now iconic Limbo Party will be held in Hobart. This is just one example of a proud and inclusive community coming together to create a safe space where young people are supported to be their authentic selves.

At the same time that pride will be taking centre stage at Limbo, the harmful practice of conversion therapy continues to remain legal in Tasmania. The Tasmanian parliament is currently debating the ban of this practice. But there is a loud minority that wants us to continue this shameful and unfounded practice that harms and traumatises young people across Australia. We have seen state and territory governments of all persuasions ban conversion therapy. As more and more jurisdictions move in the right direction, those left allowing the practice risk becoming safe havens for conversion therapy.

Our young LGBTIQ+ people deserve to be respected and accepted, not to be vilified. In 2022, it is disappointing and sad that we're even having to have these debates. I extend my sincerest solidarity to the members of the LGBTIQ+ community facing more uncalled-for public commentary about how they express themselves and who they love.

Despite its history of discrimination and segregation directed at LGBTIQ+ folks, the Tasmanian community in 2022 is a progressive and supportive community. In the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey in 2017, nearly 64 per cent of Tasmanian respondents voted yes to allow same-sex couples to marry—in a survey which, in its very principle, gave a platform to those with an inclination to spread hate, fear and often extreme misinformation at the expense of those simply wanting to express their love through marriage.

Although it can be hard, remembering our history is important, because, without reflecting on our past, we could easily find ourselves back in a place where hate and intolerance find themselves a home in our communities. Before, during and after the public debate about the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the late 1990s, there was a stark and devastating increase in young gay men suiciding. In 1988, the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group formed and, within months, the Hobart City Council banned the group's stall at Salamanca Market. Thanks to protests, the ban was removed within a matter of weeks and the group remains active at the market to this day. In 1997 Tasmania became the last state in Australia to decriminalise homosexuality, but these days it is so great to see local members of the LGBTIQ+ community hiking together over the weekend as part of the Wellington Wanderers or dancing the night away at LIMBO—or both.

Ten years ago I stood in this place and delivered a speech in the second reading debate on the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012, a private member's bill sponsored by former senators Trish Crossin and Gavin Marshall, as well as Senator Louise Pratt and me. Here is a paragraph that remains true to this day:

Having a full life means having the right to love and means having the right to follow your heart. For some people that never involves marriage. For others it must mean marriage. It is the way they declare and swear their love to the world. They want to enter into a union acknowledged by the state to which they belong as adult citizens. For me a marriage is a commitment between two adults who make this choice together. The quality of their marriage will depend on their personal commitment and determination.

They were the words I spoke during the second reading debate 10 years ago. Not long ago, people believed that people of different religious beliefs should not marry because that could not be a good marriage. In a good many places that claimed to be civilised, people of different ethnic backgrounds were also forbidden to marry. It was said that civilisation would fall if such marriages were allowed. Somehow, miraculously, civilisation has survived.

In 2017, five years after I delivered that speech in this place, an act titled the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act passed through the Senate on 7 December and received royal assent the following day. I would like to add that the sky, as predicted by some, didn't cave in that night. Australia voted for marriage equality and a whole lot of people were able to demonstrate their love how they wanted and deserved: through marriage.

This weekend, Victorians will have the privilege, I hope, of re-electing a progressive government, a government led with an unwavering commitment to equality and an unwavering commitment to justice. Under the leadership of Premier Daniel Andrews, the Victorian government has delivered for LGBTIQ+ Victorians through the Victorian Pride Centre, the Victorian Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities and specific grant programs to support LGBTIQ+ Victorians. Instead of governing for government's sake, the Victorian government, in their own words, won't rest until equality is achieved for LGBTIQ+ people.

In contrast, the Victorian Liberals campaign has been overshadowed by claims of Pentecostal groups and the hard right infiltrating the Liberals. Not only do some endorsed Liberal candidates subscribe to anti-same-sex-marriage beliefs; it has been revealed that some of their candidates have made racist statements about our First Nations community. Rightly, these candidates have been publicly criticised for their views and statements. This weekend, Victorians truly have a choice—and a pretty obvious one, if you ask me—to vote for a government which will continue the work so many Victorians have benefited from or for a Liberal Party that is eager to divide the community. The election in Victoria is a clear choice.

Here, in this place, the times have changed as well. Australians voted for a federal government that will care for people no matter their gender or sexuality. They voted for a government that will not stand by while people are actively discriminated against. You won't find this government buddying up with organisations that actively support conversion therapy and believe that someone's expression of their gender is predatory. We are a government that will stand up against bigots and bullies when they attempt to use sexuality or gender to pit communities against one another and we are a government that believe that every Australian, without exception, deserves to be safe, supported and equal. It is a government that I am so proud to be part of. (Time expired)