Senate marriage debate gets personal
Emotions were high as debate today in the federal Senate on a marriage equality bill intensified ahead of a likely vote later this week, with Labor Senator Louise Pratt close to tears while describing the discrimination she and other LGBTI people face when it comes to having their relationships recognised by the state.
Pratt, who has a transgender partner and was one of four Labor Senators who introduced the bill in late August, said the discriminatory nature of the current Marriage Act had a bearing on her relationship every day.
“I am one of those hundreds of thousands of Australian citizens who know that the laws of our nation hold our capacity for love and for commitment to be lesser – just because of the gender of our partner,” she told the Upper House.
“One of the hundreds of thousands of Australian citizens who know that the laws of our nation say we are less deserving of rights, of respect, of recognition. And we know that those ideas are not true, and that the laws that reinforce them are not right. And so this debate has a very personal impact for me.”
Pratt (pictured) said the issue of marriage equality was one that should not divide the left and right of the political world.
“It is a human issue. It is about our recognition of the injustice of discrimination.
“Although I have grown weary, over the years, of making the case over and over again that, yes, I am a person like everyone else and yes, I deserve the same treatment under the law as everyone else, I have also been strengthened, over and over, by the growing support in the Australian community to end discrimination once and for all,” she said.
“Stop pretending that our relationships are not as real as yours, our love as true, our children as cherished, and our families as precious. Because they are.”
Greens Leader Christine Milne also spoke in support of the bill and said community attitudes on marriage had clearly changed and evolved during the course of the institution.
“People are being discriminated against in this country whereas in many others around the world they now have marriage equality,” she added.
Earlier, the Coalition’s attorney-general spokesperson, George Brandis, claimed the bill was a “shameless breach of an election promise” as Prime Minister Julia Gillard had pledged to maintain the current definition of the Marriage Act prior to the last election.
“It is certainly a question about the Marriage Act, but let us remember that this is also a debate about dishonesty,” Brandis said.
“It’s a debate about whether or not it is acceptable or moral for a political leader to seek re-election by promising one thing and after securing re-election, doing another.”
Nationals Senator Ron Boswell was another to come out against the bill after saying marriage equality “hurts society” as people haven’t “thought it through”.
“There’s no support for gay marriage in the Western suburbs or amongst blue collar workers,” Boswell said.
“Two mothers or two fathers can’t raise a child properly. Who takes the boy to football? Who tells him what's right from wrong? What does he do? Go along with mum, or two mums? How does he go camping or fishing? It won’t work, it’s defying nature!”
A vote on the bill is likely to take place on Wednesday, with 31 Senators in the 76-seat Upper already publicly declaring their support for marriage equality.