Why Australians should have their say on same sex marriage

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Lucy Wicks spoke in a debate in Parliament today about same-sex marriage and this Government's commitment to let all Australians have a say about this important issue.

"We clearly put our commitment at the last election to hold a plebiscite on the question of whether the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry. Across Australia, including in my electorate, people now expect us to deliver on this promise. It is as simple as that.

We will deliver on this promise, with work underway for a mail-out to be sent out to enrolled constituents across the country starting on 12 September and with a result by 15 November. The Government is delivering what we committed, despite the best efforts of Labor, the Greens and others in the Senate as recently as this week to prevent all Australians from having the opportunity to have their say.

Australia needs to have a plebiscite on same-sex marriage because it's an election commitment that Australians voted for and, just as importantly, because changing the definition of marriage alters one of the most fundamental cornerstones of life as we know it.

The simple fact is that marriage is a framework that has existed for centuries, and it is a framework that continues to remain relevant today, even in a society where marriage is no longer the only family structure in which children are raised. Families exist in all kinds of ways outside so-called traditional structures. There are de facto, same-sex, single-parent, blended, foster and many other types of families. And I support these changes.

Some would say that that makes the framework of marriage something that should change. Others, like me, would like to fully explore what the impact of removing gender from marriage would mean—not for consenting adults but for our next generation.

In my view, it is not enough to simply say 'it's time' to change the Marriage Act or 'just do it', as some have said. That would be falling into the trap that the great writer CS Lewis once described as 'chronological snobbery': silencing detractors by dismissing their views as out of date. This may be just my personal view, but the whole point of holding a plebiscite is that what matters is not my view but the views of every Australian.

One gentleman who has made his views known to me already is Bernard from Umina Beach, who emailed me a few days ago. Let me read you in full what Bernard had to say:

'Dear Lucy, I have a gay daughter and nothing would make me prouder than to walk her down the aisle if she decides to get married. That's if—by way of the promised plebiscite—the Australian people vote democratically to change the law to allow gay marriage. However,' Bernard writes, 'if your party decides to lie in exactly the same fashion as did Julia Gillard with her "no carbon tax under the government I lead" and betrays the Australian people by not holding a plebiscite and simply taking a vote in the parliament, then as one of your constituents I can assure you I will never support the Liberal Party again, no matter what the cost of a Labor government in the future.

Marriage,' said Bernard, 'is not a political argument to be tossed around in the parliament. It is a highly personal and spiritual undertaking which a section of the community now wants to change at the expense of the honestly held beliefs of other members of the community. If the democratic majority approves that, then well and good; that's as it should be. But change in this matter by any other means, particularly by deceiving those of us who put you in power, is an unforgivable breach of faith.' The letter ends, 'Yours sincerely, Bernard.'

I place on the record my thanks to Bernard, whose words, along with many of the comments on my Facebook page and in my inbox, and my letterbox, have been respectful, passionate and insightful. These comments, many of which include strong disagreement with my position, have no claims of failure or bigotry and are not hurtful, however vehemently the writers of these comments may disagree with my position or with the position that others have taken in their comments.

This type of debate is a shining example of why, rather than trying to scare voters, Labor should be encouraging all Australians to have their say so that this issue can be resolved by November.

If the Australian people vote yes in a plebiscite, marriage will be changed forever. If the Australian people vote yes in this plebiscite, even though I will be voting no in November, I will respect the outcome of the plebiscite and the vote in Parliament, and I ask others to also commit to respecting the outcome of this plebiscite.

I will honour the result of this plebiscite, even if the outcome is not what I voted for, because I have confidence that, by providing all Australians with the opportunity to have their say, the nation will have fully worked through the implications of such a fundamental change."

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