Madam Deputy Speaker, last year the House passed a motion calling on parliamentarians “to gauge their constituents’ views on the issue of marriage equality.”
I do not believe that such a resolution was necessary. As a parliamentarian I consult and meet with constituents on a regular basis to discuss a broad range of issues, including same-sex marriage.
Since my election last year I have responded to hundreds of pieces of correspondence and met with many people on the issue of same sex marriage. As one would expect I heard a diversity of views.
I am very proud of the fact that the Australian parliament has legislated in recent years to remove areas of discrimination against same-sex couples. Discrimination has no place in our society. Significant changes have been made to our laws regarding financial and work related arrangements including reform of our superannuation legislation to introduce the concept of interdependency giving same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples. These changes were the product of bipartisan support and were a significant step forward.
At issue today is whether we should amend the Marriage Act 1961 and its existing definition of marriage “as the union of a man and woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.” This definition was formalised following a Coalition amendment to the Act in 2004.
I fully acknowledge that there is a growing list of foreign jurisdictions including Belgium, South Africa and Canada where gay marriage has been legalised by the State.
I too fully acknowledge that within the Australian community and within my own electorate there are many people who passionately support an equivalent change for Australia. Their reasons are varied.
I listened to a lesbian couple from Kew in my electorate whose love for their two children and the family they had created was only matched by their love and respect for one another.
I received a letter from an Anglican Minister who implored me to support gay marriage, arguing that the State should not impose on the broader community a strictly Christian definition of what constitutes marriage.
I was emailed by parents of gay children whose single motivation was to see their child happily marry the one they loved. The same could be said for the young man who wrote to me on behalf of his gay brother or the woman who wrote to me on behalf of her gay sister for all they wanted was to see their sibling get married.
These were all powerful pleas that had an impact on me.
I too received many visits and letters from advocates in favour of the status quo.
Some constituents quoted Holy Scripture, others referred to long standing traditions and nearly all referred to the sanctity of the family unit comprising a mother, a father and children.
These arguments were as honestly and as passionately delivered as those whose views they sought to counter.
It should come as no surprise that in this place there is a similar dichotomy of views between members on this difficult topic.
My view is that marriage is a unique relationship between a man and a woman. It is much more than a simple debate about preferred terminology.
Relationships between same sex couples are equally special but nevertheless by definition different.
These relationships are to be respected and valued for the love that they bring and the families that they build. However, the term marriage should not apply.
Civil unions, however, should be an alternative.
I know many people in our community, particularly those younger than me will not agree with my view on same sex marriage.