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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 October 2018) . . Page.. 4159 ..


values. They are places where our young people can be hurt through exclusion or discrimination, and those hurts can have years, if not decades, of ongoing impact.

Ensuring that our schools are inclusive and that students and staff are protected is absolutely critical to building a society which is strong and coherent, and having people who have the greatest possibility to live strong, meaningful and healthy lives. Schools are also places where there is an enormous power dynamic. That power dynamic can be open to abuse. The laws that govern our education system need to recognise that that power imbalance does exist, and therefore our laws need to ensure that our schools, which reflect a diverse range of viewpoints, empower all students to participate fully in their diverse communities.

As this motion notes, equality should not be considered to be particularly controversial anymore. It is strongly supported across our country, and even more so in our territory. The attempts to reinstate the same discrimination that we reversed with marriage equality and with anti-discrimination laws are farcical not only in their fixation on the sexuality of one group of people but also in how clearly futile they are. Each rearguard action to make discrimination legal and socially acceptable results in an even bigger failure to achieve that desired result. In direct contrast to that, our resistance to those efforts is showing strong results. We are, together, proving that Canberra is a city that clearly welcomes the LGBTIQ community, and our collective work is making a real difference in people’s lives.

In February last year I told members of a heartbreaking situation caused by the discrimination in the marriage laws prior to the yes vote. At that time, two brothers who I know well faced a stark contrast in their ability to express their deep commitment to their partners. For one, I had the wonderful opportunity several years back of helping to plan and then conduct the wedding ceremony for him and his now wife. For the other, whose love is just as deep, the gender-based limitations of the marriage act at that time meant that no such ceremony was possible for him and his partner. That is no longer the case. I have now had the privilege of officiating at both brothers’ marriages, and I am proud to be part of a government that has consistently and vocally supported their right to equality.

We are making important, significant, moving and meaningful progress, but we cannot and we will not lose focus on the steps that are needed to ensure equality for all who are here. As Desmond Tutu has said:

Freedom and liberty lose out by default because good people are not vigilant.

We will remain vigilant. Today I am proud again to stand with this government in support of our LGBTIQ community. I am proud to support measures that will ensure that our schools empower all students to participate fully in our society. No change to our discrimination laws can afford to enshrine prejudice, no matter what freedom the change purports to protect. A new label for prejudice and discrimination against people on the basis of their sexuality or their gender does not change what it is. Canberrans reject the vision of religious freedom that endorses discrimination and exclusion.


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