Here's the speech MP Warren Entsch gave parliament when he introduced Australia's marriage equality bill

MP Warren Entsch today introduced a cross-party bill to legalise same-sex marriage.

He did so knowing the motion would likely be dismissed without being taken to a vote.

In his address Entsch said Australia would be a “divided nation” unless marriage equality was achieved.

He was supported by several MPs from across the political spectrum, including Brisbane MP Teresa Gambaro whose office helped to draft the motion.

If passed, the bill would abolish the definition of marriage as between “a man and a woman” in favour of “two people, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”.

Here’s the speech in full.

“Mr Speaker, the Introduction of this Bill into the House today is significant and somewhat unique in that it has the rare distinction of enjoying strong cross party support.

While I have the honour of addressing you all, I do so on behalf of all my co-sponsors without whose support it would not have been possible to bring this Bill to the Parliament.

I would like to make special mention of them all:

  • the Member for Griffith – Terri Butler; who is seconding this bill;
  • my close friend and colleague, the Member for Brisbane – Teresa Gambaro;
  • the Member for Werriwa- Laurie Ferguson;
  • the Member for Melbourne – Adam Bandt;
  • the Member for Indi – Cathy McGowan; and
  • the Member for Denison – Andrew Wilkie.

Thank you for your encouragement, your counsel and your patience in supporting this Bill.

I also want to thank:

  • Rodney Croome, who has been with me on this journey from a point when I had much less understanding of this issue,
  • I would also like to acknowledge Ivan Hinton-Teoh;
  • John Lamont from Teresa Gambaro’s office for his comprehensive work in drafting the Bill;
  • the highly professional staff in the Table Office and the Clerk’s Office, in particular Mr Andrew Freeman, legislative drafter in the Clerks’ Office; and
  • Heather Beck from my office for her assistance.

I will not linger too long on the technical aspects of the Bill, which have been detailed extensively in the Explanatory Memorandum and Statement of Compatibility, but I do want to make these points:

This Bill does not create different classes of marriage.

It does not establish a hierarchy or ranking system pitting a marriage between a same-sex couple above that of a heterosexual couple or vice versa.

It provides absolute protection of religious freedoms not just in observance of s.116 of the Constitution, but because you cannot replace one form of prejudice and discrimination with another.

The main purpose of this Bill is not a complex one – it is to give same-sex couples in Australia the same right to marry the person they love as that which is currently only granted by law to heterosexual couples.

This Bill is designed to promote an inclusive Australia, not a divided one. A divided nation is what we will be if we continue to allow discrimination in relation to marriage on the basis of a person’s sexuality.

The co-sponsors of this Bill acknowledge and accept that there are strong and conflicting views on marriage equality, and we respect those views.

In addition, we are not in any way trying to change those views.

However we have to do what we believe is right and therefore our actions aim to recognise the claim of all people to equality before the law.

The Bill gives expression to this by changing the law so as to allow any “two people” to marry, and have their marriage recognised, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status.

Colleagues, much of the evolution in our societal norms comes about through greater understanding.

Many aspects of tradition that were seen as ‘usual practice’ 50 or 100 years ago are today clearly unthinkable.

As a progressive society, we need to continue to make appropriate changes to our legislation over time.

We live in a modern society where women and indigenous people have equal right to vote, mixed-race marriages are acceptable and being gay is not something to be ashamed of.

We believe that when it comes to marriage equality, that time is now.

The institution of marriage is about two people making a commitment to a monogamous relationship for life. Who is to say that one person’s love for another person is in some way lesser because of their gender makeup?

Over the years, I’ve made many friends in the gay community – people such as Sydney couple John and Arthur (aged 83 and 87 respectively) who have been together for more than 48 years.

They are now in their sunset years and would dearly like to formalise their relationship – through the institute of marriage – before it’s too late.

After an almost 50-year commitment, their relationship is still regarded as second-rate under Australian law.
That’s not good enough.

I would like to highlight other personal circumstances which have also helped to define my position in supporting marriage equality and the removal of all elements of discrimination.

It is these circumstances which continue to convince me that progressing this issue is the right thing to do.

As a young man in rural Queensland, it was quite enlightening as I came to realise that a person’s sexuality is not a lifestyle choice.
I had an experience where a friend of mine transitioned from being male to female.

Her courage in taking this step in the 1970s left a lasting impression on me, while highlighting the futility of the ‘nature vs nurture’ argument.

As she herself said to me, “There was certainly never a ‘straighter’ family/community than the one I was born into….

“For the sake of those families that differ in composition to the Prime Minister’s ideal, I hope you are successful in your campaign.”

More recently, I had the privilege of meeting a young man called Lachlan Beaton. Lachlan had posted a You Tube video about the mental anguish and struggles he faced in hiding his sexuality, and it hit me to the core.

Despite knowing from a young age that he was gay, Lachlan didn’t come out until he was 27 years old – and his twin brother Charles was not aware of his sexual orientation.

How can one argue that being gay is a lifestyle choice when identical twins develop together in their mother’s womb, are raised in the same household by the same parents, yet one is gay and one is not?

As for Lachlan and Charles’ parents, I’m sure they hope their sons will each find true love and settle down one day.

But when they do, why should one son’s commitment to his life partner be seen to be of less value than the other’s, when one can marry the love of his life and the other can’t?

The other question to consider, when discussing the family unit, is how to even define a ‘traditional’ family these days.

At the last Census in 2011, there were more than 6300 children living in same-sex parented families across Australia. This number will be significantly greater now and the rights of these children also need to be considered.

The fact is that many of the children in same sex families are the biological child of one of the parents. The best environment for those children growing up is within a loving family unit, and those children are deserving of equal protections within that unit.

To me, this Bill provides another step in affording that protection.

Further opposition to marriage equality has been based on people’s religious beliefs.

I have however received many examples where people have reconciled their faith with their compassion for members of the LGBTI community.
I was incredibly touched by a mother who wrote to me earlier this year, who said:

“I am a mum of four young adults, one of whom is gay and I’ve known that he was since he was 3 years old, it was that clear.

“I prayed for all of his life for God to change him and he didn’t, instead I changed and am so thankful for all that my son has taught me about love and tolerance.”

I have also received strong support from a retired Anglican Bishop who is very aware of the pressures that face young people in the Christian community. He said:

“I’ve been a bishop for 30 years, a priest for 60, and of my four sons, two are gay.

“I’ve been very much aware of the attitude as it’s been over the past 60 years towards homosexuals. Being in the church, I’ve seen such a lot of nonsense put forward in the name of Christianity.”

I also congratulate the 106 clergy who presented the co-sponsors with a letter of support for marriage equality last week – lead by Archdeacon Fr Peter MacLeod-Miller, Rev Angus McLeay and Rev Dr Margaret Mayman.

As I said earlier, marriage equality does bring out very strong emotions right across the spectrum of viewpoints in our society.

However this issue progresses in the coming months and years, we need to continue to aim for a high standard of dialogue, and to deal with this issue with the respect, patience and dignity it deserves.

I commend this Bill to the House.”

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