Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 15 February 2017) . . Page.. 451 ..
important message for all travellers but is aimed at 226 of them in particular, that is, the 226 people in Australia who have the capacity to change the law on marriage.
I hope everyone in this chamber today will support this motion to send our own message to the Prime Minister and the other 225 federal parliamentarians who have the power to legislate for marriage equality, to remind them that they have the power to allow every Australian the same opportunities in life and in love. They have the power to remove the discrimination that exists in the Marriage Act and uphold the rights of all Australians.
There is no doubt that the federal parliament can make laws regarding marriage equality. There is no doubt because the successful High Court challenge of the ACT’s 2013 marriage laws established this fact. The High Court’s decision was clear: neither the ACT government nor indeed state governments have power to legislate for marriage equality. Significantly, in coming to this decision the High Court recognised that the marriage head of power under section 51 of the constitution allows the federal parliament to legislate for marriage equality.
It is the federal parliament’s responsibility and theirs alone to address the inequality at the heart of our current marriage laws. Although the territory’s laws were in place for only a few days they had a significant and lasting impact, and not just for the 31 same-sex couples who were married under them. These laws provided the clear determination that the federal parliament could pass legislation to enact marriage equality.
As the ACT government submission to the Senate Select Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill states, the federal parliament has the constitutional authority, the legal ability and the human rights imperative. Public opinion, both in Australia and internationally, prevails strongly in favour of marriage equality.
There is no genuine reason for the federal parliament to further delay this long overdue amendment. There is no need or justification for pursuing a costly, harmful and non-binding public vote. The federal government’s proposed plebiscite is nothing more than an ill-conceived and divisive delaying technique. The fact that many LGBTIQ advocates, individuals and organisations have rallied to oppose the plebiscite should illustrate just how real the concerns about a plebiscite campaign are; concerns about the division and hostility that would result from a plebiscite campaign and concerns about the potentially damaging impact on LGBTIQ members of our community and on their families and friends.
As former Justice of the High Court Michael Kirby has said:
A plebiscite campaign unfortunately would be likely to bring out hatreds and animosities in our country that are bad for minorities generally and for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender minority in particular.
The nature and tenor of the ongoing debate about marriage equality generally, as well as the speciﬁc proposal for a plebiscite, could pose a real increased risk of self-harm