Page 446 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 15 February 2017

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and their commitment to one another, and the ACT government’s advocacy for marriage equality, but I want to respond to some comments made by those opposite in the debate here today. It makes no sense to say that we have had these debates before, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. In the Ninth Assembly, there are a very significant number of new members on both sides of this chamber who deserve to have their say on this issue and be heard. Members of the Liberal Party should be able to engage in a respectful debate on these issues rather than simply dismissing them and debate on this important topic for many Canberrans. That is disrespectful.

Indeed this motion points towards some key issues which have arisen in the last few months with regard to the Senate inquiry into the exposure draft of the marriage amendment. In that amendment the ACT rightly has argued that it is inappropriate for marriage equality legislation to apply exemptions to civil celebrants. Just as it would be inappropriate for a justice of the peace not to sign documents of a person based on their race, it would equally be inappropriate for a civil celebrant to have an exemption from marrying those who are of the same sex. Of course, there will be exemptions for religious marriage.

The Liberal Party will do anything to avoid actually discussing why they do not support marriage equality. They will not discuss the principle. There is an interesting discussion to be had about how all Australians can share in the most conservative institution of all: marriage. After all, it was David Cameron who said that he supported gay marriage because he is a conservative, not in spite of being a conservative.

Instead what we have heard from the Leader of the Opposition and Mr Hanson is the continuation of support by the Liberal Party of the bizarre policy of a degrading $160 million plebiscite. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition and Mr Hanson did not have to go out and campaign to have their relationships recognised by the state. So why should any other Canberran? Even many of his federal colleagues are backing away from this position. It is untenable and unfair on some of the most vulnerable Canberrans, particularly young people who are coming to terms with their own sexuality and identity.

The times have changed. The population wants this to happen and none more so than the population of the ACT. The ACT Labor government will continue to advocate for marriage equality because it is about removing discrimination in the law. But it is also about giving all Canberrans the opportunity to participate in all of our society’s institutions.

MS BERRY (Ginninderra—Deputy Chief Minister, Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development, Minister for Housing and Suburban Development, Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Minister for Women and Minister for Sport and Recreation) (11.04): A lot has been said today about the history of marriage equality in the ACT and how the ACT government has acted on a deeply held conviction that in a modern, secular and mature society everyone deserves equality before the law. That is a belief that has been held by a clear majority of people in the ACT.

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