Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 14 Hansard (Wednesday, 29 November 2017) . . Page.. 5293 ..
exemptions and religious protections. We who have a very sharp focus on the importance of the separation of church and state and the rights of all citizens in a secular liberal democracy need to be vigilant in the coming weeks and months, because it is clear from the public statements of a small section of the Australian parliament that there will be attempts to wind back hard-won anti-discrimination laws in this country. That is a matter of concern and something we need to pay close attention to in the coming weeks and months.
I look forward to the support of members in this place for respect for this democratically constituted Assembly. I hope that all members who stand for election and who are elected to this place respect that fundamental principle. It seems pretty straightforward in the context of anyone wanting to run for this place that you would indeed respect that.
Mrs Jones: I do not think there is any evidence to the contrary.
MR BARR: People are free to put other views, Mrs Jones. I am not suggesting that that is not the case. What I am saying is that we should respect this place as the democratic institution for this territory. We are not always going to have outcomes in this place that we agree with as individual members but—
Mrs Jones: I do not think anyone disagrees.
MR BARR: Well, you were interjecting on me making that point. Today it is important to acknowledge the issues that Mr Steel has raised, because they are highly relevant to the debates that will occur in the federal parliament next week and certainly in early 2018 relating to the deliberations of and possible recommendations emerging from the committee that former federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock is chairing for the Prime Minister. I commend Mr Steel’s motion to the Assembly.
MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (5.40): I thank Mr Steel for bringing this important issue to the Assembly. The motion is very timely. It comes as one house of the Australian parliament has just passed the marriage equality bill, and hopefully the other will early next week. It comes at a time when the Australian parliament is considering important questions about discrimination in our country. The Australian public has just voted on the voluntary survey on marriage equality and expressed its strong support for legislation to legalise same-sex marriage.
Australians endorsed the removal of a fundamental area of discrimination that persists in our country: the prohibition that prevents same-sex couples from marrying. This prohibition denies same-sex couples the rights enjoyed by different-sex couples. It denies them the chance to express their love through marriage. It discriminates by denying basic equality. The public has overwhelmingly and triumphantly called for this discriminatory law to be overturned. The ACT had the highest yes vote in the country. This is a fantastic result.
Unfortunately, perhaps inevitably, this was not enough to deter certain opponents of marriage equality. A variety of conservative coalition members have been pushing for the same-sex marriage legislation to continue to permit discrimination against