Page 436 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 16 February 2016

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MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (3.38): Members will remember on 19 September 2013 the Attorney-General, Mr Simon Corbell, presented the Marriage Equality Bill 2013 in the ACT Legislative Assembly. Madam Assistant Speaker, as you know, the bill sought to end the unreasonable legal discrimination still experienced by same-sex couples at that time, and that still exists, by making it impossible for them to marry under Australian Capital Territory law. The bill sought to end this unreasonable legal discrimination.

Following amendments, on 22 October 2013 the ACT Legislative Assembly passed the Marriage Equality (Same-Sex) Act 2013 with the unanimous support of my eight Labor colleagues and the Greens member, Mr Shane Rattenbury MLA. In passing this bill, the ACT did not purport to introduce a new definition of marriage but, rather, create equal provision for committed same-sex relationships in the ACT that would co-exist with the commonwealth Marriage Act 1961.

The passage of this legislation marked Australia’s first formal recognition of same-sex marriage, and in less than a week of the act’s commencement, 47 couples had given the required month’s notice of their intention to marry. On the first Saturday following the first date same-sex ceremonies could be held under the act, 31 same-sex couples were married.

However, because of the way marriage is defined under the commonwealth Marriage Act 1961, on 23 October 2013 the commonwealth government successfully challenged the act’s validity in the High Court, where the full bench of the High Court held that the commonwealth Marriage Act exhaustively states the law on the solemnisation and dissolution of marriage in Australia. The High Court decision meant, therefore, that 31 marriages performed under the legislation in the five-day period between the act’s implementation and the High Court’s ruling were declared to have no legal effect. This was a sad day.

Madam Assistant Speaker, the fight must go on, however. It must go on because we on this side recognise that through struggles such as this progress is made. A series of small wins and sometimes occasional losses mean, in the end, people have the rights they deserve. We are a party of progress and affirm the principles of equality as expressed in our human rights charter. The inequality that exists in marriage is a wrong that has existed for far too long. For these reasons the ACT government will continue to advocate passionately in support of genuine legal equality for all couples.

Madam Assistant Speaker, as you know, the commonwealth has committed to a plebiscite in 2017 to assess support for marriage equality. If recent estimates are anything to go by, it will cost the taxpayers about $160 million to confirm something we already know, as the majority of the general population in Australia, I believe, fully support marriage equality. Recent independent opinion polls indicate that there is more than two-thirds popular support for same-sex marriage. That is about 69 per cent in favour, according to the Fairfax-Ipsos August 2015 poll.

The continued delay in legislating for marriage equality is a Tony Abbott-Malcolm Turnbull tactic which simply perpetuates the inequality of same-sex attracted

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