Page 3571 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 22 October 2013
I understand the position I have taken may not align with that of some of those in this Assembly and, indeed, others in the community, and I truly respect that. Like others, I have received many emails and messages from many people over the past few weeks, and I respect the opinions of others. However, I also understand that these matters are matters of personal belief. And, as such, I cannot reconcile not legislating to allow two people who love and are committed to each other to marry with my own values and belief system to which I must remain true.
I was brought up in a family where my parents gave me a sound grounding in social justice for as long as I can remember. Yes, my mother was a practising Christian and my father not. My parents held the view that homosexuality was a private matter and not against the law. In many ways, they were advancing values that many of their generation that they mixed with did not. This was particularly true of the church my family attended. This cost my parents dearly in terms of their relationships with some of the church members, particularly the hierarchy. Indeed, as a much younger person, I witnessed my father being “heavied” at the time and being told to apologise for his outspoken views.
My parents believed in acceptance of others and acceptance of difference. Overall, my parents believed in fairness and equality under the law. These are values that were central to the way I was brought up from a very small child and into adulthood. They continue to inform my view of the world, and I am sure members understand they are deeply held values. They have guided me throughout the many years that I have worked in the community sector and those I have worked as a registered nurse in the remote part of the Northern Territory. The more I witnessed and/or experienced any form of inequality in all these settings, the more I was determined to play my part, however small, to address it. Some may be aware that I have a gay niece—my youngest sister’s daughter. This fact only serves to add to my commitment to this bill. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to know that today in the ACT at least one wrong will be made right.
I commend my parliamentary colleagues—the Chief Minister, Ms Katy Gallagher, Mr Andrew Barr, Mr Simon Corbell, Ms Joy Burch, Dr Chris Bourke, Ms Yvette Berry, Mr Mick Gentleman and Mr Shane Rattenbury—for supporting this bill, and I commend it to the house.
MS BURCH (Brindabella—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Disability, Children and Young People, Minister for the Arts, Minister for Women, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Racing and Gaming) (10.58): I, too, stand today as a proud member of the ACT Labor Party and of the ACT Assembly as we move towards making history. Today the Assembly will legislate for equality. We will legislate for choice and respect and will give same-sex couples a freedom and regard that many of us take for granted. Not for the first time the ACT government finds itself at the forefront of social reform, and I commend the hard work the Attorney-General has put into progressing this legislation.
Today we celebrate what we have achieved. In some ways, I find it difficult to understand why what we have done is so difficult. We know that many of our