FEDERATION CHAMBER BILLS
The Hon Greg Combet AM MP
Federal Member for Charlton
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency
Minister for Industry and Innovation
Marriage Amendment Bill 2012
Mr COMBET (Charlton—Minister for Industry and Innovation and Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) (13:16): I support the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 that has been proposed by the member for Throsby and supported by others. Like many members, I have taken many points of view from amongst my constituents and have consulted in relation to the issues and I think it is fair to say, as everyone would be familiar with, that there are many strong points of view right across the spectrum on this issue. But ultimately for me as a member of parliament and as an individual this is a matter of discrimination against same-sex couples that I believe the parliament should remedy. Same-sex couples should not be denied the ability to marry if they should choose to do so.
The bill amends the Marriage Act 1961 to address this issue by amending the definition of marriage from 'husband and wife' to 'two people'. Importantly, it does not place an obligation on a minister of religion or a marriage celebrant to marry same-sex couples if they should not wish to do so. The bill simply seeks to remove discrimination and to advance equality in our society. It is important, as the member for Throsby indicated in introducing the bill, to note that marriage has changed over the years. We no longer have betrothals and dowries, a wife's vow of obedience or the prohibition of certain interracial or interreligious marriages. Times change and it is important that the legislature change with them. Ending discrimination does not take away someone's rights; it establishes equal rights for members of our community.
Labor, I would submit, has a very proud history of fighting for rights and ending discrimination. That is one of the reasons that I am a member of the Labor Party and the Labor movement, although I have enormous respect for the diversity of views on this issue amongst the members of the Labor Party. When one looks at the history of the Labor Party, it established the Racial Discrimination Act of 1975, the Sex Discrimination Act of 1984, the Disability Discrimination Act in 1992 and in the last term of this parliament Labor amended 85 separate pieces of legislation to remove discrimination against same-sex couples. Australia is not acting alone on this matter either. Ten countries and even more jurisdictions now allow same-sex marriage. Although I do respect, as I have said, the different views in relation to this matter, the Labor movement has always fought for equality and justice and I believe that this sits within that tradition.
As for many other members, this is also a matter relevant to my own family and extended family. I cannot and will not contemplate support for discrimination against persons whom I care for. Should members of my family or my friends wish to solemnify their same-sex relationship by seeking to become married, I have respect for that. For the people for whom I care and have regard, I as a member of parliament but particularly as a member of my family cannot support discrimination let alone in the way that I construct the current arrangements discriminate against the rights of same-sex couples to marry. For those reasons, in brief, I do support the Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 and am happy to have my support on the record.
25 June 2012