Page 2766 - Week 09 - Thursday, 8 August 2013

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Here in the ACT, of course, we have a proud history of—and this Labor government has a longstanding commitment to—legal recognition of people who are in same-sex relationships. The Civil Unions Act, disallowed by the Howard government in 2007, and the Civil Partnerships Act, which had to be modified and compromised upon to avoid a further disallowance, were fights that were important, because they reiterated the basic principle that people in same-sex relationships are deserving of equal recognition before the law and are deserving of their relationships being solemnised, brought into being in exactly the same manner available to heterosexual couples. There is no difference. Sexuality should not be a basis on which we choose to create different legal structures, and that is why ultimately same-sex marriage is so important. And for those reasons the government will be pursuing this scheme.

Will it be subject to a challenge? It may be. But that can be said of many laws that are considered by parliaments here and right around the country. But the government has a clear basis for choosing to enact such a law. It has a detailed advice and opinion by respected legal minds on this question. We have been there before in our pursuit of both civil unions and civil partnerships legislation, and we will be there again when it comes to the attempt to establish a same-sex marriage scheme for same-sex couples in our community.

MS BERRY (Ginninderra) (5.03): Today the Australian labour movement, a movement of which I am proud to be a member, knows that workers should not be discriminated against because of who they love, either in their workplaces and also more broadly in our community. But it has only been through the hard work and leadership of many of our members and supporters that we have got to where we are today with regards to marriage equality. It has always been the case that same-sex attracted people deserved equal recognition and protection under the law; but it has not always been the majority view of the community.

Arriving where we are today—where a majority of Australians support equality—has been achieved through the work of a broad cross-section of our community who engaged their friends, neighbours and colleague in a conversation about the need for change. In the early stages of this conversation it was individuals who engaged their families and put this issue on the table. I think most members in this place would know of Ivan Hinton and his family. They exemplify how we came to see the exclusion of same-sex couples from the civil and cultural institution of marriage as discrimination. Ivan and his family are ordinary Canberrans who want to recognise and celebrate the extension of their family in the same way they have for generations. They do not discriminate based on the gender of their family members, and their acceptance highlights the current inadequacies of our laws.

Leadership was then taken by parliamentarians like my colleagues in this place, every one of whom on the Labor side support marriage equality. They had the courage to take up the cause of families like the Hintons and stand up against discrimination as a matter of principle. The ACT Labor government has always led the way on this issue, and we have been joined over time by Labor governments in Tasmania and South Australia, by our Prime Minister and, most recently, by the premier of the New South Wales parliament, who truly knows how broad the support for this issue has become.

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