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Same-sex Marriage

(Urgent Motion, 24 June 2015, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

Finally we get to talk about love. I move:

      That this House:

(1) Notes members of the New South Wales Parliament and the community hold various views on the issue of marriage equality.

(2) Wishes our Federal colleagues a respectful debate that is tolerant of all views.

(3) Notes the importance of members of Parliament being free to express their own view and the views of their electorates on this issue.

The vast majority of people in New South Wales and the wider Australian communities have opened their hearts and minds to support the right of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex [LGBTI] people to marry the persons they love in the country they love. This is reflected in Crosby Textor polling, which shows that up to 72 per cent of Australians support marriage equality, with the figure rising to 75 per cent in New South Wales.

The New South Wales Parliament is home to some of the strongest advocates of marriage equality across the political spectrum. The Hon. Penny Sharpe continues to be one of the most passionate supporters within the Labor Party. The Hon. Don Harwin, President of the Legislative Council was seen to be the first Liberal parliamentarian at a State or Federal level to support marriage equality publicly when he spoke on the Relationships Register Bill in 2010. The member for Coogee continues to be a strong and effective supporter; the Hon. Trevor Khan was one of the first Nationals members to declare support for reform, and The Greens' Cate Faehrmann successfully passed a motion supporting marriage equality in the upper House in the last Parliament. My predecessor, Clover Moore, was one of the first Australian politicians to support marriage equality, and this Parliament has two members who are in same-sex marriages—that is, me, having married my husband, Victor, in Argentina, and the Hon. Shayne Mallard, who married his husband, Jesper, in Denmark. Recently many of these members of Parliament were joined by the member for Newton at a rally supporting a marriage-equality free vote in Taylor Square in my electorate that I emceed. We were also joined by Councillor Christine Forster.

In my experience, this Parliament has always dealt with the issue of marriage equality in a respectful way, as was demonstrated when the Cross Party Marriage Equality Working Group delivered a same-sex marriage bill to the upper House in the last Parliament that was narrowly defeated. I know that a number of lower House members from all parties wanted to support the legislation if it proceeded to this House. I also acknowledge the former Attorney General, the Hon. Brad Hazzard, who worked with me to get overseas same- sex marriages recognised in the State Relationship Register.

The issue of marriage equality is a live and urgent one for our Federal colleagues, and the debate must be respectful and tolerant of all views. Those opposing reform must cease relying on absurd arguments like it is healthier to smoke than be gay, or arguing that letting same-sex adults marry the person they love is a step towards bestiality.

The challenge for opponents of reform will be to use facts instead of fear. Children are often used by opponents of reform for unfortunate political pointscoring. New South Wales, like many other States, already has same-sex adoption. Children in families headed by same-sex couples deserve the right to have married parents. It is cruel and ignorant to attack same-sex parented families or single parented families. Study after study proves that what is most important to children is a loving and stable environment. Single parents and same-sex parented families can provide such an environment just as much as other couples.

It is important to highlight that advocates of reform have always been respectful of the differing views of religious bodies and have ensured that any proposed legislation does not force members of the clergy to marry a same-sex couple if they do not want to. The international experience for countries who have embraced reform is that marriage's value as a celebration of commitment and love between two adults has improved. Indeed, statistics provided by the United States Census Bureau show that those states that allow same-sex marriage have lower divorce rates than those that do not.

Recently, it was the dying wish of Australian Lee Bransden to marry her same-sex partner, Sandra Yates, in New Zealand. Not everyone can wait for marriage equality, and that is why this reform is urgent. Our Federal colleagues must be given the freedom to vote according to their own values and the views of their electorates on this important issue. In response to my first question to Premier Baird, he stressed the importance of conscience votes and paid tribute to the leadership of former Premier Barry O'Farrell in granting free votes. I call on the Prime Minister to show the same leadership. Many Federal members of Parliament have surveyed their electorates and found strong support for reform amongst their constituents—these include the member for Solomon, Natasha Griggs, and the member for Page, Kevin Hogan.

It is estimated that up to 20 members of the Federal Coalition Government are likely to support reform. It is untenable for Coalition members of Parliament like the member for Wentworth, the member for Higgins or the member for Brisbane to say they support reform but cannot vote for it. The Liberal Party says it is the party of individual freedom, and a free vote should be the default position on this issue. The longer this is delayed, the longer we fall behind our closest allies such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. More importantly, we must no longer allow same-sex couples to be treated as second-class citizens and show disrespect to an institution that should be about love, not discrimination. I commend the motion to the House.

Read Full Motion HERE


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