House of Representatives Debates Gay Marriage Resolution

An impressive debate began in the House of Representatives tonight on a motion by the Greens member, Adam Bandt, calling on parliamentarians to gauge their constituents’ views on the issue of marriage equality.

Bandt’s motion reads:

That this House:

(1) notes there is:

(a) a growing list of countries that allow same-sex couples to marry including the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, SPain, Canada and South Africa; and

(b) widespread support for equal marriage in the Australian community; and

(2) calls on all parliamentarians to gauge their constituents’ views on the issue of marriage equality.

Speaking to the motion, Bandt said, “there have been many attempts through history to limit love and all have failed”. The text of his speech is at the end of this page.

  • Click the PLAY button to listen to Bandt’s speech:

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  • The motion was opposed by the Liberal member for Berowra, Philip Ruddock.

  • Listen to Ruddock’s speech:

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  • The new Labor member for Throsby, Stephen Jones then moved an amendment to the motion, as shown below:

    That all the words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: “this House calls on all parliamentarians, consistent with their duties as representatives, to gauge their constituents’ views on ways to achieve equal treatment for same sex couples including marriage”

  • Click PLAY to listen to Jones’s speech. The full text is at the end of this page.

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  • The following members then spoke on the resolution, until the debate was adjourned:

  • Bruce Billson – Liberal, Dunkley

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  • Sharon Grierson – ALP, Newcastle

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  • Warren Entsch – Liberal, Leichhardt

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  • Andrew Wilkie – Independent, Denison

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  • Malcolm Turnbull – Liberal, Wentworth

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  • Shayne Neumann – ALP, Blair

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  • Teresa Gambaro – Liberal, Brisbane

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This is the draft text of Adam Bandt’s speech on his equal marriage resolution:

Love knows no boundaries.

Love knows no limits.

And love knows when it has found its partner.

Mr Speaker, there have been many attempts through history to limit love.

And all have failed.

And as we move further into the 21st century I am confident that attempts to limit love will fail again, that full marriage equality will become a reality.

Mr Speaker, this motion before the Parliament does not seek to overturn the Howard government’s change to the Marriage Act which sought to limit marriage to a few.

My colleague Senator Sarah Hanson Young has a bill before Parliament that when passed will amend the Marriage Act to enshrine the right for all Australian’s to marry regardless of their gender or sexuality.

And in time the Greens will move for that bill to be debated.

Instead this motion seeks to provide an opportunity for members of Parliament, the media and most importantly the community to discuss the importance of Marriage Equality.

The motion is not binding on Members of Parliament or the government its passage will not in itself legally endorse or ratify the right to marriage equality. Rather it will acknowledge the reality of community opinion in Australia which has changed.

The motion reads:

That this House:

(1) Notes that:

(a) There is a growing list of countries that allow same-sex couples to marry including the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Spain, Canada and South Africa; and

(b) there is widespread support for equal marriage in the Australian community.

(2) Calls on all parliamentarians to gauge their constituents’ views on the issue of marriage equality.

In moving this motion The Greens want Parliament to acknowledge that Australian public opinion is changing.

We also want Parliament to acknowledge that change is happening around the world.

And we want those who are still stuck in the old way of thinking to go out and engage with the people in their electorates to find out where are now at.

And I welcome my colleagues who have chosen to participate in this debate today and I am encouraged by the fact that many more MPs would have spoken today if we had more time for speaking spots rather than the ten we were able to allocate.

I am also encouraged by the number of MPs including Ministers who have indicated their support for Marriage Equality through the media, some of whom have raised the prospect of the bringing forward their Party conference to change policy.

This is welcome.

However, I would say that there is no need for such delay. If the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader were willing to shift direction we could change the law right now.

And it is especially disappointing that the Prime Minister and the government continue to hold on to 20th century thinking on matters of love when the community is so far ahead of them.

Because we know that the community has progressed.

Recent polling shows the majority of Australians support a move to full equality for marriage.

When The Greens Marriage Equality (Amendment) Bill was considered by a Senate Inquiry over 25,000 submissions were received.

We know that there are many small groups who are well-organized and well-resourced and that they will continue speak out very loudly in favour of discrimination. But it is a mistake to think that because they speak loudly that they speak for everyone.

I would ask members concerned about those groups to have a look at today’s analysis of community attitudes appearing in the Fairfax press. What it suggests for those sitting in this house by virtue of a small margin is that the well-organized old-world lobby groups are not engaging the voters in your seats. Instead, what you will find there, as Mark Davis writes, is that “perhaps the marginal seats are not as fussed by gay marriage as the politicians think.” Which means the time is right to make this change.

There are now so many people wanting to marry or friends and family members of those whose love the law says can not be recognised.

And it is these people, Mr Speaker who this debate is ultimately about. The many, many, many people want to marry and can’t because there partner is of the same-sex. And the many, many, many people whose sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, grandmothers and grandfathers, friends and neighbours who all know someone who wants to be married but can’t because of this archaic legal discrimination.

Today, the online campaigning group Get Up asked couples to submit their photos and their stories of why they want to be married.

I want to read some of these to the House.

Tony Bannister:

The attached photo is of my beautiful partner Paul Walters & I. We have been together as a couple for over 13 years. We are committed to each other, our families and our friends. We have busy, successful careers, have a number of properties which we co-jointly own and we live our lives, just like most other ‘married’ couples in harmony with each other in a caring and loving way.

What we don’t have is a recognition of our partnership in terms of legally or equality. Not only is this discriminating as to what this means to ours and others relationships but I strongly believe that this is at the root of discrimination in terms of educating our children that same sex partnership, marriage and unions are just as equal, loving and right as our parents and friends. Anyone we are connected to from parents, to friends to work colleagues can see that what we have is no different from what they have yet agree that we should have the same rights and protections. Until this happens we are living in a world of ignorance and intolerance.

Kate Abel:

I met the love of my life 6 months ago and this is a photo of us taken only last month about 15 minutes after we became engaged.

We are now planning our wedding and the part that devastates us is that our own country won’t recognise us as a married couple. Being recognised through a civil union or partnership, for us is insufficient. We want nothing more than to have our relationship seen legally as “marriage” and to be able to say that we are wives. We want that certificate of marriage, just like any heterosexual couple does. We are both professionals, highly educated (we are both undertaking Masters levels university courses while working full time as professionals) and we hold the same values of love, family and marriage as everyone else. It saddens us that, just because we happen to be of the same sex, we don’t have that right to be married. Five of my friends are getting married next year and all of them take for granted that this country allows it.

Because we aren’t allowed to get married here, we are going to marry overseas. Afterwards, we will have a formal reception in Australia. Being able to hold a marriage certificate with our names on it is very important to us: at least our marriage will be recognised somewhere. The sad part for us is that not all of our friends and family will be able to attend the ceremony because of the geographical limitations.

These are just a few of the thousands of Australian who want to be married but a barred by the Howard government ban.

Mr Speaker, there have been many times through history when the civil rights of a group of people have been violated, often with legal sanction.

Many of those struggles continue.

The struggle to end discrimination and for full equality for LGBTI people did not begin with marriage equality and it will not end when it is achieved, but it is an important turning point for that struggle.

I am sure the increased discussion and debate brought about by this motion will contribute to bringing about full equality.

Regardless of the outcome of the vote which it seems may be determined by the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader’s current position it is this debate and discussion which will take us further along the path to marriage equality.

I am encouraged by suggestions and support by various members for a friendship group that could progress these issues.

Mr Speaker, there is a famous aphorism “love conquers all” and as I said in my opening remarks love is a powerful force and it is a powerful force for good.

It is the power of love that has brought us to this moment in the debate over marriage equality.

And it is the power of love that will force this Parliament and this country to face the reality of what marriage and love means in the 21st century.

This is the draft text of Stephen Jones’s speech on the equal marriage resolution.

I rise to amend the motion – and wish to make a few brief observations.

The first is that I don’t pretend to be an early activist on this issue.

When I think about the issues that I campaigned on this year – it was dealing with youth unemployment (which stands at 14% in my area), it was reforming our economy to make it more sustainable and to preserve our planet for future generations, it was improving infrastructure and access to health and education services.

But now – having focussed on the issue, and having applied the core Labor values of equality, fairness and dignity, I believe there is a need for change.

It was these values that led Labor in its first term to conduct an exhaustive review of all Commonwealth laws to identify and remove all areas of discrimination against same sex couples. We amended 86 separate pieces of legislation.

If change is to occur then we must build a community consensus. If legislation is to be changed it will require a consensus which requires more votes than any single party.

That won’t be achieved by a heroic dash but careful advocacy that deals respectfully with different views.

On this issue there are different views.

There are some who on theological grounds believe that to celebrate marriage of two men or women is an affront to their religion. I believe that the real objection here is not the marriage but the relationship.

We can be thankful that we live in a society where those who hold this view are as free to hold it, as I am to say respectfully – that I do not agree. We are opposed to discrimination – this opposition is grounded in the value of fairness and equity – we are opposed to treating people differently because of gender, race, religion or sexual preference.

There are others who argue that gay marriage is an affront to tradition – I have more sympathy for this argument. I am a great believer in the importance of tradition – it is often the stuff that binds us together. But it can also be the stuff that excludes and impedes genuine progress.

We must be careful in genuflecting to tradition. Traditions change over time. There have been many matrimonial traditions which we now think of as absurd if not abhorrent. Betrothal, dowry and a wife’s matrimonial vow of obedience to husband come to mind.

Marriage is an important institution in our society – it is a special relationship where two people say to each other, and to the rest of the world, that they agree to be bound together in love, exclusive of all others, for life. It would diminish us all as a society if we were to say that we must exclude gay and lesbian couples from this celebration.

I respect the right of religious organisations to disagree with this – and to continue to practice in accordance with their beliefs indeed no motion or Act of this place could in itself alter those beliefs – but it is an entirely different thing to ask the state to enforce this.

Finally, I come to this place as a representative of my electorate and of my Party. I will advocate for change – I will do that in my electorate and in accordance with the rules and processes of my Party, and in this Parliament.

Bandt motion

Mr Bandt, pursuant to notice, moved—That this House:

(1) notes that there is:

(a) a growing list of countries that allow same-sex couples to marry including the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Spain, Canada and South Africa; and

(b) widespread support for equal marriage in the Australian community; and

(2) calls on all parliamentarians to gauge their constituents’ views on the issue of marriage equality.

Mr S. P. Jones, moved, as an amendment:

—That all the words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: “this House calls on all parliamentarians, consistent with their duties as representatives, to gauge their constituents’ views on ways to achieve equal treatment for same sex couples including marriage”

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