MPs returned to Canberra today for the delayed sitting of the House of Representatives for the first time since October, and the first order of business is the debate over changing the marriage act to allow same-sex marriage.
The bill was passed by the Senate last Wednesday, 43 votes to 12, and now only needs approval by the lower house this week to become law.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott, a fierce no campaigner, flagged amendments to the bill, but said he will be voting in favour of legalising same-sex marriage. Liberal MP Tim Wilson was among the first to speak out in favour, with his long-time partner, Ryan Bolger, watching in the gallery.
“This debate has been the soundtrack to our relationship,” Wilson said, paying tribute to Bolger, a school teacher.
“We both know this issue isn’t the reason we got involved in politics — give us tax reform any day!” he joked.
Wilson, 37, became emotional as he discussed their relationship and its travails, including the fact that many people didn’t know how to react when they announced they were engaged. People ignored messages or changed the topic of conversation.
“For a while, Ryan kept pushing for an engagement party but the truth was I kept delaying it, perhaps wrongly, because the strong message I took from so many people’s silence was no-one would come,” he said.
The former Institute of Public Affairs policy director, who was an Australian Human Rights Commissioner before entering politics last year as the member for Goldstein, said that in his first speech “I defined our bond by the ring that sits on both of our left hands”.
“They are the answer to the question we cannot ask,” he said.
“So there’s only one thing left to do; Ryan Patrick Bolger, will you marry me?”
Thankfully, Bolger said “yes” – and later admitted he wasn’t expecting it.
— Ryan Bolger (@rpbolger) December 4, 2017
Deputy speaker Rob Mitchell congratulated them as the chamber broke into applause.
“We should let Hansard note to record that was a ‘yes’, a resounding ‘yes’,” Mitchell said.
It’s the first time a marriage proposal has been made during a parliamentary sitting.
— Australian House of Representatives (@AboutTheHouse) December 4, 2017
Here’s the moment, courtesy of the ABC.
— ABC Politics (@politicsabc) December 4, 2017
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