Page 3956 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 20 September 2017

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government has in place. I note that in that extensive list there are a number of elements that this place has recently debated and that have received unanimous support. Others—for example, the safe schools program—are a little more controversial and do not attract the support of all members in this place.

I think it is important in debating a motion like this to highlight those areas of agreement and then to focus on areas of disagreement and seek to find positive ways forward, because it has been my experience in this place that some of these issues were not always unanimously supported at the time that the government brought forward a change but that over time, as a result of laws changing or societal attitudes changing, or as a result of leadership from government, attitudes have changed.

Just in the 11 years that I have been in this place, issues that were once bitterly fought are now seen as areas of bipartisan or tripartisan agreement. Many of those relate to the treatment of sexual or gender minorities, and I can certainly point to quite a transition of attitudes among those opposite on those issues. There was a time, just going back to the last decade, when even the question of recognition of same-sex relationships by way of civil partnerships, of civil unions, was bitterly opposed and was going to be the end of civilisation as we knew it and would undermine marriage et cetera.

Ten years on from those debates, we are now being told to settle for that particular outcome because that achieves functional equality but not necessarily symbolic equality. I find it a little distressing, in the context of the debates that we are having now in this country, to be told that it is stressful for everyone when we did not need to have this process. We did not need to have a non-binding, voluntary postal survey that has caused a great degree of stress not just across this city but across the country.

Just to be clear, there has been a degree of political contention already in relation to what the ACT government has done to provide additional support for our community during this period. But this is now an issue of concern that been raised not only here in the ACT but also on the national stage. What we have seen is a 20 per cent increase in demand for support services for the LGBTI community, particularly those seeking mental health counselling as a result of the issues that are being debated now.

We have locally provided more support for the LGBTI community consortium that includes organisations like Northside Community Services, A Gender Agenda, the Aids Action Council and Sexual Health and Family Planning who are providing additional support as a result of the funding that the ACT government has provided.

We are working with our ministerial advisory council to continue to closely monitor this situation. As distressing as this process is for all who are expressing opinions in relation to the issue of marriage, there are ways in which one can express an opinion on that issue without offending others. We could all learn from that. That does apply, indeed, to both sides of the debate. It is a fascinating thing: freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion in a secular liberal democracy. If you do not seek to impose your world view on others, generally speaking you will go okay in that debate.

Ms Lawder: From both sides.

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