Adam Bandt: Listen to the majority, equal marriage rights now

November 20, 2010

On November 18, the federal House of Representatives passed a motion calling on members to gauge their constituents’ views on marriage equality. The motion passed 73-72, opposed by the Liberal-National Coalition and independent MP Bob Katter. In his November 12 speech introducing the motion, Greens MP Adam Bandt explained that while his motion would not repeal discriminatory marriage laws, it would force parliament to recognise changing community views on the issue. His speech is abridged below. The full text is available at .

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Love knows no boundaries. Love knows no limits. And love knows when it has found its partner. 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.

This motion 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.

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 to find out where they are now at.

I am 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.

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.

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.

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

When the Greens’ Marriage Equality Bill was considered by a Senate inquiry, over 25,000 submissions were received.

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

There are now so many people wanting to marry, whose love the law says cannot be recognised. And the many, many people whose sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, grandmothers and grandfathers, friends and neighbours want to be married but can't because of this archaic legal discrimination.

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

I want to read some of these:

Tony Bannister:

“The attached photo is of my beautiful partner Paul Walters and I. We have been together as a couple for over 13 years … just like most other married couples in harmony with each other in a caring and loving way.

“What we don't have is [legal] recognition of our partnership … 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…

“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 and 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 six months ago and this is a photo of us taken only last month about 15 minutes after we became engaged…

“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 … 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 Australians who want to be married but are barred by the Howard government’s ban.

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.

There is a famous aphorism "love conquers all" and as I said in my opening remarks love 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.

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