ADJOURNMENT - Marriage

I rise to speak tonight on the result of the national survey on marriage equality. This is a result that may not be welcomed in some parts of our nation and, indeed, in some first-nation communities. However, the right result has come from the voice of the Australian people. In a modern civil society like Australia, the right stance for our country is to hear the voice of the people and to translate it into good law. The result of the same-sex marriage survey provides political guidance to the parliament and how it should now act. We need to pass a law to reflect these wishes. This does not mean being unmindful of those who have contrary views. However, we have seen enough discrimination. We have seen enough inequality. We have seen enough prejudice. In this place, we have the capacity to make those unions of loving same-sex attracted couples civilly supported, celebrated and legally sound.

Marriage inequality is one form of institutional, systemic discrimination which our country now wants us to fix. Marriage equality of same-sex couples sends a message that you are equal; you are entitled to fairness; you are as Australian as any other Australian; you are a valued human being; and you are loved equally. I hope a positive message can ripple out to all our Australian people that this is now a time for respect, for hope, for understanding and for acceptance. We know bigotry, ignorance and negative discrimination can and does upset and divide families and communities. It does shatter the lives of individuals and needs to be rejected on all occasions. We, the first-nations people, know all too well that stinging feeling of being consigned to a lesser status in our society because of our identity, our race, our experience of rejection and our non-recognition, in truth, as to who we are: the first peoples of this country.

Institutional discrimination has to be overcome by good policy and fair laws. Personal attitudes and beliefs are often harder to deal with, but education and compassion are often necessary. They are often subjective and the result of our beliefs, knowledge and experience as well as our encounters with and treatment by others. Good law in our parliament should work towards resolving such matters—balancing them and ensuring that human beings are put first, not our institutional prejudices. Slowly, our nation is becoming slightly more understanding and more tolerant of differences and diversity amongst its people. We may hold different views but, in our civil society, government has to make laws that are fair, balanced, respectful of difference and diversity and for the common good. The idea that a single point of view is the only view is long gone. Knowledge, understanding and honour require us to rectify the injustices that have plagued our society. The same-sex marriage equality survey tells us that.

I understand and respect the views of fellow Australians, including some first-nation Australians, who may feel that they cannot support same-sex marriage because of their own beliefs, whether those beliefs emanate from their religious faiths or from their understanding of their own social, cultural traditions. I respect their views and value their perspectives. But, in a civil society, different beliefs, values and traditions can be respected without allowing any single view to dominate as the good order of the society. Many first nations peoples who want to see acknowledgement of our own uniqueness in the nation state also want to see respect for those who are different to us in terms of their customs, values and practices. We should be aware of and reflect on the diversity and inclusiveness of our own Indigenous societies, irrespective of our differences. There is more in common that we hold than what divides us. Our national society has to try to reflect this modern mix and composition of ideas, beliefs and values. Kinship connects all human beings so that no-one is less than anyone else. Our protocols embody respect for those who are different, so they are included, not excluded or ostracised. Mutual respect underpins the reciprocity we so often offer to this society but so rarely receive in return.

The Western notion of the marriage contract is a recent construct that has inserted itself into our ancient, ongoing kinship systems and societies. Marriage so often has, historically, been about private property, possessive ownership and the exchange of goods and chattels. Women have often been treated as only equivalent to property. This is still true in some societies today. Today, the same-sex marriage equality survey tells us to move away from that legacy—to treat partners not only as equals but also as equals to others who have married under Australian law. Marriage equality is about precisely that—equality.

It is up to us as individuals, as fellow humans, to do what our conscience tells us, to do what is good, what is true and what is honest. People who love each other and want to celebrate that love and commitment should not be penalised. In our civil society, the burden for the parliament is to seek the common ground, to do what is best for our citizens, to deliver the long-overdue justice to same-sex couples. The nation's voice has told us that Australians support marriage equality. We must now get on and make that happen.

I look forward to seeing more of the respectful attitudes that were portrayed today—when the bill was moved by Senator Smith and in the responses made by the leaders of the various parties. Tomorrow, let us see that respect carried through in a true, just and respectful manner.

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