Time we MPs step up and get marriage legislation passed
IF the majority of us have voted “yes” to same-sex marriage – and I believe we have – we are on the cusp of a watershed moment for our country.
It’s a process that Australians will be able to own; to be able to say we helped make equality a reality.
Every gay Australian, and every vulnerable person questioning themselves, will receive the confidence boost and the validation that they can only get from knowing the majority of Australians support them and their equal opportunity to make a loving, lifelong, legal commitment.
The next logical step would be to talk about legislating the result. Yet it is worth reflecting on the significance of today.
It’s not very often Australians have come together in favour of changing the status quo. We’ve held just 44 referendums in this country and only eight have been carried. Most of the time, we haven’t wanted change.
Reform is not easy in modern Australia. As Queensland’s first openly gay MP, I know that same-sex marriage has been a vexed topic for many years. For such a divisive and personal issue that has played out in the national discourse for more than a decade, everyday Australians deserve to own the result and embrace it as something that they played their part in achieving.
As for legislating a “yes” vote, I will work with my colleagues to ensure fair and balanced legislation passes through the Parliament.
I for one would be willing to keep the Parliament sitting for as long as it takes to have this matter properly resolved before Christmas.
When many believe we have already shirked our responsibilities as politicians, it is only fair to see this through before the year is out.
Earlier this year, I worked with Senator Dean Smith and others to develop a Bill that has received broad support from across the Parliament as well as religious and community organisations.
It came out of a cross-party senate committee that consulted widely to find a good balance between equality and religious freedoms. Its starting point was a Bill drafted by our Attorney-General.
There may be other reasonable Bills or amendments and I look forward to some debate where individual MPs persuade each other on the merits of our ideas and vote according to our conscience, informed by the postal survey results.
But there are no reasons or excuses for further delay. On this historic occasion, we owe it to all of the Australians who have expressed their view to resolve this in a businesslike fashion.
We have asked Australians to play an extra part in our democratic process.
It’s now time to play ours.