Page 445 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 15 February 2017

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Whilst our gallery is small today, I want members of the Canberra LGBTIQ community, their families and their friends to know who your allies are in this campaign and who will commit to fighting for your equality. I am one of them.

MS FITZHARRIS (Yerrabi—Minister for Health, Minister for Transport and City Services and Minister for Higher Education, Training and Research) (10.58): I too am very pleased to rise today in this chamber to support Mr Pettersson’s motion on marriage equality and again reiterate our government’s commitment to marriage equality and support for the LGBTIQ community and call for federal leadership on this issue. As has been said, we know that 77 per cent of Australians support marriage equality. The ACT has continually led the way in this parliament and in our community, both symbolically and practically, to support diversity and legislate for greater equality.

Others have noted this government’s significant commitment over a long period to legislative change, policy and program support. The ACT also led the way when it legislated in this place for marriage equality in 2013, before an intervention from the federal government led to the High Court overturning this legislation. Only yesterday this government passed legislation that will mean same-sex marriages and other unions from other jurisdictions will automatically be recognised in the ACT. This is an important change and we will continue the fight to break down even more barriers to marriage equality in Australia.

The unfortunate reality is that we lag behind other countries and jurisdictions when it comes to marriage equality. We lag behind our peers. As Ms Cheyne noted, many other countries led by governments of all persuasions have legislated for marriage equality because they know it is the right thing to do. It really is time to move this debate along. I believe it is contributing to the disillusionment of our community, because the community generally knows what really underpinned the continuing decision to hold a plebiscite.

We know that some people disagree with marriage equality. That is their right and they should be allowed to express that, but their entrenched antagonism towards the parliament—the federal parliament of this country—doing the job that it was elected to do should not prevent this important reform from taking place. As Mr Pettersson said, it is a question of when, not if.

All members of parliament should be allowed to vote with their conscience on this issue. It would be nice to have the support of all members of this parliament to encourage our federal colleagues to take a leadership approach on this issue. We look forward to celebrating the day when all men and women in the ACT can feel and be truly equal in one of the most fundamental units of our community—our families. I am proud to support this motion today. I hope that the ACT can continue to lead the way and that we will see real change in 2017 towards marriage equality and continued support and celebration of the LGBTIQ community.

MR STEEL (Murrumbidgee) (11.01): I spoke yesterday on the steps that the ACT government has taken to recognise the commitment of LGBTIQ Canberrans,

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