Marriage Equality

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:14 :50 ): I move:

That this council—

1. Supports marriage equality; and

2. Calls on the parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia to amend the Marriage Act 1961 to provide for marriage equality.

We are not so 'dearly beloved' in this chamber today, but we are gathered here to witness the debate in our nation. I truly hope that those who have spoken long and loudly in support of spurious efforts, I believe, to deny a couple the right to wed will then forever have to hold their peace sometime soon. I know in this place that we do have a difference of opinions, and I do look forward to those opinions being put forward in a debate and taking this motion to a vote.

Bring on the marriage equality debates I say, because if this issue has shown one thing, it is that debate changes opinions—and changes opinions in support of marriage equality. It dispels the misconceptions if we have the debate. The misconception that marriage is just a religious matter has long been dispelled. As we know, not all religious leaders oppose marriage equality; some would welcome it in their congregations. In fact, some of those religious leaders in this state marry other couples each and every weekend, yet cannot marry each other. It also dispels the myth that the creation of a family is what marriage is about. Well, we know that not all families see children born in wedlock, and we also know that not all couples who marry want to, or desire to have children.

We know that in the past it has been said that this debate would be changing the institution of marriage. Well, the institution of marriage has long changed to suit the culture and the society in which those marriages are performed. We do not have prohibition on interracial marriages in 2015 in Australia I am proud to say, but not so long ago it would have been not the thing for a black man to marry a white woman, or vice versa. We know that once upon a time, in my mother's time, it would have been unheard of for a Catholic to marry a Protestant—yet that would rarely raise an eyebrow these days.

The other idea that marriage is somehow an immovable institution is most obviously shown to be a false contention by the fact that in 2004, in this country, then Prime Minister Howard changed our marriage act to specifically deny same-sex couples the right to marry. He did so because same-sex couples were getting married overseas and coming back and seeking to have those marriages—quite rightly, I believe—recognised under Australian law.

Churches have the right to marry who they see fit, and they will continue to do so. Marriage equality will not restrict the right of any church to deny a marriage that is sought by that particular church. It will also empower those churches, such as the Quakers, to marry people that they so choose. Marriage equality will not see the sky fall down; it will see the sunrise tomorrow, and the only thing that will be changed if we allow same-sex couples to marry is that some same-sex couples will get married.

I commend those in the federal parliament who are currently actively putting forward bills on this issue to recognise marriage equality. Most recently, we have seen a Liberal Democrat senator put this issue firmly and squarely back on the agenda and then a Greens bill, and now a Labor bill.

I do not agree with the Prime Minister on many things, but I do agree with his words that it would be great to see a parliament bill: a cross-party bill brought to the federal parliament this year and voted on with a free vote. Yet, the Prime Minister has yet to allow that free vote, and I know that Liberals around the country would urge him to allow that free vote, and I would hope that in this debate here in this council we can show whether or not Liberal members of this council are willing to support a free vote and also marriage equality. I believe some of them will.

I note that it was not so long ago that the Labor Party did not have a free vote on this issue. When former backbencher and now minister, Ian Hunter, and I co-sponsored a bill in 2010 for marriage equality, the honourable member, Ian Hunter, was able to co-sponsor that bill, but under former premier Rann was not necessarily able to vote for that bill. Things have changed in the Labor Party and I welcome that. I know that it is something that many in the Liberal Party have spoken out about and certainly members such as Warren Entsch, and in South Australia Senator Simon Birmingham, have been strong and proud advocates for marriage equality.

When those politicians do speak out they should know that they are not alone, that the numbers in the community are growing stronger by the day, and that across Australia thinking, caring people, no matter their sexuality, no matter their religion and no matter their background or age, are increasingly supporting marriage equality. They are questioning the successive Howard, Rudd/Gillard and then Rudd rebooted efforts to quash this debate, and the Abbott government, in continuing to deny a full debate on this issue, will stand on the wrong side of history.

Those Australians number in the majority, as 72 per cent of Australians now support marriage equality according to last year's Crosby Textor survey of 1,000 Australians. That is the highest level, and the numbers continue to grow. The survey shows a majority of support in every demographic including people of faith, people in regional and rural areas, and older people. While the Australian government does not recognise same-sex marriages entered into overseas or allow same-sex marriages to be performed within this country, many Australians are saying it is time we said resoundingly 'We do.'

It is a question that has been asked and answered in many other countries. In the Netherlands in 2001 they said yes to marriage equality, Belgium in 2003, Canada provincially in 2003 and then nationally in 2005, and Spain, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Mexico City, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Uruguay, New Zealand, France, Brazil, England, Wales, Scotland, and Luxembourg. We know many other countries continue to consider and are on the verge of also moving towards marriage equality. Many states of the United States of America have accepted this. They have had the debate and yet it is a question we still have yet to answer in the affirmative in this country.

This issue has been on the political agenda and the parliament's agenda since 2004 when John Howard moved to diminish the human rights of same-sex couples who had married overseas. At that time my former boss and someone I am proud to call a friend, Senator Natasha Despoja, with former senator Andrew Bartlett, was the first to move a bill in the federal parliament specifically to legislate against this discrimination. I note that she was then in the minority, not only in the parliament, but in the community.

In fact, in 2010 on ABC radio she was out of step with her own husband, Ian Smith, who at that time opposed marriage equality. He stated it was on the grounds of religion. I am informed by Natasha—and I sure that Ian would be happy to confirm this — that he now strongly advocates for same-sex marriage and marriage equality. Other notable people, such as former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett, have shown that many of our political leaders have had a bit of a 'road to Damascus' on this issue.

When we bring on the debate it changes minds and it will recognise what is in the hearts of those same-sex adult consenting couples who simply wish to get married to the person they love. I know that many in the National Party and Liberal Party can be counted on in support of the ranks of those who support marriage equality. I am calling on the Liberal Party to show support for those members of their parties who wish to have a free vote to have that free vote and to have their opinions noted in this council on whether they support marriage equality or not. I urge all members to support this motion.

It is time for political courage to be shown. It is time for this issue to be taken out of the hands of backroom brokers in all political parties. It is time for these irrational policies of the past to be consigned to the dustbin of history. The Greens have been there; every member, every vote, every time. We will again and again vote for this issue until we win. We know it is the right thing to do, and we look forward to members of parliament on the right of chambers of parliaments across this country joining us in support of marriage equality.

We know the numbers in the community are there; I believe the numbers in the parliaments are there if they are given a free vote. The only thing that will change if we support marriage equality is that we will have marriage equality. I look forward to that day, when we stand in solidarity and definitely on the right side of history. With that I commend the motion to the council.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.S. Lee.



Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. T.A. Franks:

  That this council—

  1. Supports marriage equality; and
  2. Calls on the parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia to amend the Marriage Act 1961 to provide for marriage equality.

  (Continued from 17 June 2015.)

  The Hon. T.T. NGO (17:23):  I move to amend the motion, as follows:

 In paragraph 2, after the words 'marriage equality', insert 'by inserting a separate gay marriage definition whilst maintaining the current definition of marriage'.

I will speak briefly about my amendment to this motion, and in doing so offer my support for gay marriage or same-sex couples being allowed to marry. I do not have a preference for whether it is called gay marriage or same-sex marriage. For the purposes of this debate, I will stick to gay marriage. Honourable members should note that this matter is a conscience vote for ALP members until 2019.

 I understand that what I am about to say is not likely to win me any friends, especially those opposed to amending the Marriage Act. For a long time, I have openly expressed the view that it is more important to reach a compromise than to cater to only one side of the debate, particularly as I believe that there is a fairly even split in the community between those who are for and those who are against gay marriage. This is why current proposals to change the Marriage Act have become particularly divisive, causing angst for many people who have strong views on both sides of the debate. Because of this, I believe that a resolution needs to be found on this important matter of public policy, based on some form of compromise by both sides.

 The federal Liberal member for Goldstein, Mr Tim Wilson, who is openly gay, penned an opinion piece in The Australian in June 2015 where he proposed the option of splitting marriage into religious marriage and civil marriage. This would leave religious celebrants to marry those who adhere to values of a particular doctrine, in his words. Religious marriage would be recognised in law as a marriage between a man and woman. Civil marriage would be recognised as a marriage between two people and would be administered by civil celebrants.

 The current definition of marriage in section 5.1 of the Marriage Act is 'the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all of the others, voluntarily entered into for life'. Taking a leaf out of Mr Tim Wilson's book, my amendment seeks a compromise whereby the Marriage Act could contain the current definition of a man and a woman, whilst creating a separate definition to accommodate two people of the same sex.

 Since putting forward this proposal, I have heard two sides of the debate. One group firmly believes that marriage is for a man and a woman only, while the other group has strong views on the need to recognise marriage equality. I believe this position offers a significant compromise which, whilst not satisfying both sides of the debate entirely, in my view does satisfy the central concerns within this debate—allowing gay or same-sex people to marry. That is very important: it allows gay or same-sex people to marry.

 I reject the idea that opponents of this proposal put forward that this will see one form of marriage become more equal than the other. My view is that there are two definitions provided for marriage. Just because they are different does not mean they are unequal. In my view, conservative Australians should also accept the idea of providing two separate definitions of what constitutes a marriage, as their notion of what constitutes marriage is protected without the need to deny a gay marriage to same-sex couples. It is also incumbent on religious institutions to consider how they can facilitate a compromise, which I believe will help them in the long run in maintaining their freedom of religious expression.

 It is my belief that the majority of Australians would support my proposal if it were put to them. I have shared my proposal with many people who do not have fixed opinions on the same-sex marriage debate and I have not found one person who is opposed to my proposal. They also believe it is a good compromise because both sides are included.

 I believe that, as members of parliament, we need to put our strong views aside and take the lead on this issue. By finding a compromise on such a difficult social issue, we can cater for all groups and unite the country. I urge honourable members to support my amendments. We can show other states that this parliament is about working together for the common good. With that, I put my amendment motion to the council.

 The Hon. R.L. BROKENSHIRE (17:30):  I rise to speak to the motion regarding same-sex marriage. There will be no surprise to colleagues that Family First does not support same-sex marriage and believes the traditional definition of marriage should be maintained. It is a longstanding Family First policy to support and uphold the traditional definition of marriage and, in our view, the role of the mother and father is unique and complementary and it is in the best interests of children to have balance.

 Family structure plays a significant role in the development of children. Research has overwhelmingly shown that children have better outcomes if they are able to grow in stable family structures, resting on stable, committed and faithful relationships. We had this debate just a few months ago, in the last week of sitting, and I am on the public record with my viewpoints there also.

 A recent study published in the peer reviewed Journal of Education, Society and Behavioural Science presented evidence in favour of this conclusion. In fact, the large-scale study provided 1.6 million people as its total sample size, to which 512 children raised by same-sex parents were analysed from a pool of respondents who participated in the survey between 1997 and 2013. The study concludes that children raised by both biological parents who are of the opposite sex are less likely to have emotional issues. Our children represent our future and therefore it is critical that the wellbeing and welfare of children is a paramount consideration when making laws.

 Secondly, I have put on the public record that in the lead up to the last federal election the Liberal government formed the policy that it will enable the people of Australia to have their say on same-sex marriage. For the record, this state has no legal position as a parliament of legislators because this is up to federal and commonwealth law and the federal government and federal parliament. The government did communicate the intention very clearly before the election and their policy was subject to public debate.

 Upon re-election by the people of Australia, the federal government has a clear mandate to hold a plebiscite on same-sex marriage. Those in the federal parliament who argue against that are concerned that if people are able to get into a polling booth in a private position where they do not have to go for political correctness, or be embarrassed by adverse comments at dinner parties or any other place where they may discuss the matter, they will then be able to privately make a decision.

 The government, through the introduction of a bill into the federal parliament to enable the people of Australia to have their say on the issue was simply following through on an election promise. As we all know now, that bill was defeated in the Senate last year. Supporters of same-sex marriage often assert that the majority of Australians are open to changing the traditional definition of marriage. I for one am not sure about that. It is our view that if this is indeed the case, then the plebiscite is the ideal way to confirm or deny this once and for all.

 Same-sex marriage is undeniably a topic to which most people hold an opinion. Therefore, every Australian should be able to have their say on the matter and the will of the majority should be respected. I note that that there are two amendments to the motion and I note that the Hon. Tung Ngo has tried to put a compromise forward.

 As I said earlier, Family First's position is clear: we support marriage as per the current commonwealth law and we do not support any changes to that. I know that the honourable member is trying to find a compromise here. We are very clear and we stand by our position but, if there was to be a division on this clause by the Hon. Tung Ngo, then clearly we would have to support that rather than the motion as it stands at the moment, notwithstanding that we do not support the motion, as I have indicated. I also note that another colleague, the Hon. Stephen Wade, has tabled an amendment in which he proposes leaving out paragraph 2. I assume he proposes that amendment because he knows that the debate on same-sex marriage is a commonwealth decision and not a state decision.

 I conclude by saying that clause 1 of the motion states that this council supports marriage equality. I would be surprised if the council actually supports marriage equality, that is, that 100 per cent of the legislators in the Legislative Council would support this motion. Rather, there may be some members of the council who support marriage equality, but not 100 per cent of the members, because for sure Family First with two members does not support marriage equality. With those words, we will listen to the debate and, if there is a division, as I said, we will have no choice but to support the Hon. Tung Ngo's amendment. However, in summary, we do not support this motion at all.

 The Hon. S.G. WADE (17:36):  I rise to reiterate my long-held personal view in relation to relationship recognition and marriage equality. As I have said in this house before, I believe that the state has an interest in recognising and supporting long-term relationships and that that should be done in a non-discriminatory way, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender. That said, I am a long-term communicant of the Christian church and I respect the right of the Christian church and other faith communities and, for that matter, communities of no faith to officiate and celebrate their own marriages as they understand them.

 To be frank, I am disappointed that the opportunity for compromise was not taken some years ago. I suggested in a speech in 2009 that I believe that recognition of relationship should be taken out of the Marriage Act and should be in a freestanding act. One of the main motivators for that, in my view, was because I believe the continued use of the Marriage Act at the commonwealth level severely undermines separation of church and state.

 The Christian church and our understanding of marriage has evolved over the years. I can remember, very early in my political awareness, the heartfelt battle against the Whitlam government reforms to the Marriage Act. I find it somewhat ironic that, some decades later, some members of my faith community want to defend the Marriage Act with such vehemence as though it was Holy Scripture when, in fact, only two or three short decades ago, we were declaring it to be an abomination of the Whitlam government.

 Let me make it very clear: I would much prefer that marriage was left to faith and other communities to officiate and celebrate as they understand it, and that the state keeps its relationship recognition on a more formal, non-discriminatory basis. However, that is not the choice that either the federal government or the federal opposition has taken. Both the major parties in Canberra are committed to reforming relationship recognition within the Marriage Act.

 I respect the comments of the Hon. Tung Ngo, but I do not believe that compromise is now possible. The major parties and, I think, the Christian churches made a fatal tactical error some time ago. For those of us who do want non-discriminatory relationship recognition, it has to be done in the Marriage Act, and so whilst I do not really like the slogan 'marriage equality' because, as I said, I would prefer to have 'relationship equality'. As people might understand it in the context of the comments I have just made, I will be supporting this motion.

 The question might be asked, 'Why wouldn't I amend clause 2 as the Hon. Tung Ngo has chosen to do?' To be honest with you, I saw that that would lead us down a process of amendment and counter amendment and further amendment to almost the point of providing drafting instructions to the federal parliament. With all due respect to my federal colleagues, I will leave it to them. I am more than happy to affirm my long-standing commitment to the non-discriminatory recognition of relationships, but I propose to do that simply. In that context, and in accordance with the amendment that I have filed, I move to amend the motion as follows:

                That paragraph 2 be deleted.

 The Hon. T.J. STEPHENS (17:40):  I rise to oppose the motion. I still and probably will always carry the traditional view that marriage is between a man and a woman. I have been reasonably consistent on this and I do not intend to change my views. The Hon. John Gazzola was kind enough to point out to the Hon. Gerry Kandelaars when he asked me if I would be prepared to pair him on this particular motion, that of course there are no formal pairs with regard to a conscious vote, and he is quite right.

 However, as I hold the Hon. Gerry Kandelaars in high regard, whilst we agreed on virtually nothing when it came to conscious votes and certainly his Labor philosophy, and I always found that he was a really good fellow to interact with, with regard to our parliamentary duties, as a final act of respect I am putting on the record that I will be pairing with the Hon. Gerry Kandelaars on this particular motion and the amendments that go with it.

 The Hon. K.L. VINCENT (17:42):  I will be very brief because my beliefs on this particular matter are well documented. I support the definition of marriage being amended to allow same-sex couples to marry if they wish because as a Dignity Party MLC, I believe that autonomy, respect and dignity belongs to everyone in our community.

 I would also like to briefly indicate that I will be opposing the amendment of the Hon. Mr Tung Ngo, mostly because I am not sure what its intention is. He noted that in introducing it that, under it, religious marriage would remain between a man and a woman, and civil marriage would be that of a same gender couple. I have one question to illustrate a potential problem, and I hope I am not oversimplifying or being naïve, but what then of different gender couples or heterosexual couples who may wish to have a non-religious marriage but still have that marriage recognised?

 I am not entirely sure given that the Hon. Mr Ngo said that just because things are different, does not mean they are not equal. If he is not trying to make anything different for same sex couples, then what is the practical point of introducing this amendment in the first place? What practical impact would it have? Those of us who support changing the definition of marriage do so because we believe that the same opportunities should belong to every couple, regardless of their gender makeup, so I do not think any of us who genuinely support marriage equality, as flawed a term as that is in this place, would support. With those few brief words, I will support the motion.

 The Hon. G.E. GAGO (17:44):  I rise to make a very brief contribution in support of this motion. Today I am a longstanding supporter of LGBTIQ community and strongly advocate for marriage equality. The public overwhelmingly supports same-sex marriage and it is the duty of federal parliament to amend the Marriage Act to enable equality before the law for these relationships. Reform is long overdue. Every single Australian deserves to be treated equally no matter who they are or whom they love.

 For the record, I cannot support the Hon. Tung Ngo's amendment because it goes against the whole intent of the motion to do with equality. Every couple needs to be treated in the same manner in terms of marriage. The Hon. Tung Ngo's amendment would treat these couples in different ways. Just for the record, I support the Hon. Stephen Wade in his amendment. I think that is a helpful way forward.

 The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (17:45):  I have expressed my views previously but let me repeat them in this particular motion. I support the notion that marriage is between a man and a woman and therefore I do not support the interpretations that some have put on marriage equality. I support, whether it be register, civil unions or whatever it might happen to be between same-sex couples to give them the same legal rights and entitlements, short of being able to say that they are married. 

 For those reasons I will not support the motion if it was to be put in that way. I am not sure exactly how the amendments are going to be put. I will obviously support the Hon. Mr Wade's amendment because that actually opposes a key part of the motion, and I say no to the Hon. Mr Ngo's amendment.

 The Hon. J.M. GAZZOLA (17:46):  This is a conscience vote, as has been pointed out before, for government members, and I rise for the record to support the motion for marriage equality and to oppose the Hon. Mr Ngo's amendment. I thank all those who have contacted my office to express their views either for or against the proposal. I strongly believe that two persons who love each other should, if they wish, be allowed to express their love and commitment by marrying. I commend the motion.

 The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) (17:47):  My position on this is patently clear: I am married, after all, to the love of my life, Mr Leith Semmens, who just happens to be a man, and so I think people have a very clear idea of where I stand on this.

 I will be supporting the Wade amendment. I think he makes some cogent arguments for the deletion of paragraph 2 and it makes and leaves a much clearer statement of support for marriage equality or, as the Hon. Mr Wade would put it, relationship equality. I will not be supporting the Hon. Tung Ngo's amendments, for a very important reason, and that clearly is because the Hon. Mr Ngo proposes in his compromise amendment two different forms of marriage.

 I understand completely what the Hon. Mr Ngo's is attempting to do with his amendment. I know he means well and is very sincere in his desire to find a way forward through this debate which seems to be dividing the community, although perhaps not as much as he thinks. However, I say to him that his approach is a flawed one, and it is flawed because—and I paraphrase him now in something that he said when explaining his amendment. He said that just because the two different types of marriage he is proposing are different does not mean that they are unequal, but I would say to him that yes, it does.

 I only have to hark back to what happened in America when they were dealing with civil rights issues and segregation and the famous phrase that was pronounced by the Supreme Court of the United States that 'separate but equal is not equal'. This was the desperate explanation that was used to support the ongoing position of race segregation in the United States of America. When the Civil Rights Movement was challenging the crippling effects of segregation on the African-American community they took up this challenge to say that segregation of separate but equal is not equal. Segregation, as we know now historically was struck down by the courts when they ruled that separate but equal can never be equal.

 For those reasons I will be opposing the amendment by Mr Ngo. I will be supporting the amendment proposed by the Hon. Mr Wade and hopefully then come to very simple statements of support for marriage equality as will be advanced by the Hon. Tammy Franks, and I welcome that.

 The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (17:49):  For the record, I will support the motion concerning marriage equality. I will not support the Hon. Tung Ngo's amendment, but I will support the Hon. Stephen Wade's amendment.

 The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) (17:49):  As members know, this is a conscience matter. It has been some time since I have put my position on the record, but I have a traditional view of marriage and believe that it is the jurisdiction of the commonwealth parliament. It is interesting that, in all sorts of other debates we have had in this place and question times where the commonwealth has been brought into the debate, it is really not a jurisdiction over which we have any influence, so I am always surprised when we are trying to send messages to the commonwealth.

 I am reminded of, I think it was Rod Sawford, former member for Port Adelaide, describing where this Legislative Council ranks in the eyes of federal parliamentarians. I think they see themselves in the House of Reps as the A grade, the senators are B grade, the House of Assembly is C grade and, sadly for us, we are the D grade. So, I am not sure that they are ever going to take any notice.

            The Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins:  A few of them have got us a bit lower than that.

 The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY:  My colleague, the Hon. John Dawkins, says that some of them have us lower than the D grade. I am digressing. I do not support the motion, I do not support the Hon. Tung Ngo's position, and I am inclined to support my colleague the Hon. Stephen Wade with his amendment. I certainly want on the record that I will not support the motion. Personal Explanation


            The PRESIDENT:  The Hon. Mr Stephen's wants to make a contribution, can he do that?

            The Hon. T.A. Franks:  He already has.

            The PRESIDENT:  He wants to make an explanation.

            The Hon. T.J. STEPHENS (17:51):  I seek leave to make a personal explanation.

            The PRESIDENT:  I would love to hear it.

            Leave granted.

 The Hon. T.J. STEPHENS:  Given that it is the Hon. Gerry Kandelaars' last day, I suspect he might have been a little bit emotional because he very cleverly, and probably without doing anything underhand, has the Hon. Andrew McLachlan pairing out with him, by written pair, even though I had agreed to pairing him out of respect. To be fair, I do not think we will double dip, so I will participate in the vote.



 The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (17:52):  I thank all members who have made a contribution. A majority of members of this chamber have gotten up and spoken and told the people of South Australia what they believe about this particular issue. I thank you for that, and I thank you for the fact that this chamber, this council, while I do not believe it is D grade, will be showing up the federal parliament, because we will be taking this matter to a vote—something the politicians are elected to do. Regardless of whether or not we disagree with each other, we are put in the parliaments to exercise our votes. That is the principle of representative democracy, for which reason we are here.

 I wish to address, firstly and unsurprisingly, the amendment to my motion put by the Hon. Tung Ngo. In echoing his colleague minister Hunter's words, I believe he does so from a place of wanting to find a compromise, but he also does so from a place of a lack of information. He says that this is a deeply divisive issue in the community. It is a deeply divisive issue in parliaments across our country, but I doubt that 72 per cent (and rising) of Australians supporting an issue is a deeply divisive community issue.

 That is a 2015 figure from a Crosby Textor survey. As I say, it continues to rise. That survey showed a majority of support in every demographic that was surveyed, including people of faith, people in regional and rural areas, and older Australians. While Australian governments do not recognise same-sex marriages, the people of Australia are supporting this coming into practice.

 The other area on which I had grave concerns regarding the representations made by the Hon. Tung Ngo was his claim that not one person had expressed that they disagreed with his position. I urge him to open an email he was sent yesterday from a coalition of groups, signed by: Australians 4 Equality Co-chair Tom Snow; Alex Greenwich, Co-chair, Australian Marriage Equality; Chris Pycroft, Co-convenor, New South Wales GLRL; and Anna Brown, Director of Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre. It is also signed by Andrew Birtwistle-Smith, the Chair of the South Australian Rainbow Advocacy Alliance. These groups represent many thousands of Australians who oppose the Hon. Tung Ngo's attempt at what he sees as a solution and this amendment. It goes on to read:

 As representatives of the LGBTQ community directly affected by these reforms we are deeply concerned that this amendment indicates that 'gay marriage' should be treated differently from other marriages under law. We strongly believe our relationships and commitments should not be seen as different or having less value under Australian law.

While he might not have heard from one person, he has heard from representatives of many thousands of people opposed to his amendment.

 I go on to note that the Hon. Tung Ngo chose to quote a gay member of parliament, Tim Wilson, a former voice in the human rights debate but now in our federal parliament. I note that he described the MP as 'openly gay'. I have never heard anyone in this place declare that they are openly straight or openly queer or openly bisexual, but somehow it is important that Tim Wilson is openly gay. The reason that is important is that it had to be closeted for so many decades and centuries.

 In the fourth century, one couple that had to closet themselves away, but not for their samesex attraction, were the saints Sergius and Bacchus. They were high up in the Roman military, they had to keep their Christianity secret and they were married to each other. Sergius and Bacchus both died for their Christianity and continue to be seen as martyrs and saints in various Christian religions. Over 30 Christian and Jewish religion groups in this state have signed off on letters to parliamentarians, and they have called on us before to support marriage equality.

 More recently, a person who did not sign that particular letter a few years ago, Pastor Brad Chilcott, actually left his religion due to their stance in support of marriage equality. I commend him for that move. I also note that for over a decade the Quakers have made Senate submissions and made very public that they want to be able to marry members of their own congregation. When you talk about religious freedoms, there are two sides to that particular coin. When you say there are two sides to the coin of the marriage equality debate, you talk about gay and straight. There is not just gay and straight.

 You have completely denied the reality and the lived experience of trans-people in your amendment. Many trans-people in this state have been married to each other but have not been able to have their gender reassignment recognised because they do not want to give up the person they love for the person they know they are. We have overcome that in previous months in this place. You have just denied the reality of their existence with your amendment for gay marriage.

 This is not an issue that is easy for many people, because change is not easy, but we have seen marriage change so much in terms of what you have referred to here as 'traditional marriage'. I am certainly very glad that women are no longer chattels in marriage. I am very glad that an Aboriginal person can marry a white person in this country and that a black person can marry a white person in this country and nobody blinks an eye.

 Once upon a time, it would not have been under the law. I am very glad that a Protestant and a Catholic can marry in this country. Again, once upon a time that would have caused great concern. A divorcee, as they used to be called, can now marry. A person can divorce with no fault, rather than having to prove fault.

 These are all great advances in what we call marriage, and if you want to talk traditional marriage, well, I am going to stick to my fourth century saints, who were martyrs in the Christian religion, and honour the love of Bacchus and Sergius. With those few words, I oppose the amendment of the Hon. Tung Ngo, I support the amendment of the Hon. Stephen Wade and I urge members to support the motion.

            The Hon. T.T. Ngo's amendment negatived; the Hon. S.G. Wade's amendment carried.

The council divided on the motion as amended:


Ayes ................. 11

Noes ................ 6

Majority ............ 5



Darley, J.A.

Franks, T.A. (teller)

Gago, G.E.

Gazzola, J.M.

Hunter, I.K.

Maher, K.J.

Malinauskas, P.

Ngo, T.T.

Parnell, M.C.

Vincent, K.L.


Wade, S.G.



Brokenshire, R.L.

Hood, D.G.E.

Lee, J.S.

Lucas, R.I.


Ridgway, D.W. (teller)


Stephens, T.J.

Kandelaars, G.A.

McLachlan, A.L.

Lensink, J.M.A.

Dawkins, J.S.L.




            Motion as amended thus carried.

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