26 September 2012
of the Legislative Council
MARRIAGE BILL 2012 (No. 41)
- I, like the member for Apsley, would like to start by
congratulating the member for Murchison on her speech. It was very
well researched and carefully considered and it demonstrated a
compassionate insight into a social dilemma that we have all become
very aware of over the last couple of months and, of course, it was
groundbreaking. I have been here for 10-and-a-half years and it is
the first time that somebody other than a government member has taken
President, there is a perception among many that the tide has turned,
whether we like it or not. It has turned and is turning all around
the developed world.
President of the United States, Barack Obama, expressed his full
support for gay marriage in May after saying for several years that
his views were evolving. Earlier this month the Democratic Party in
the United States endorsed same sex marriage in its platform
and, of course, a number of states already have the law.
the United Kingdom legislation for same sex marriage is being
prepared. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has said he supports
New Zealand parliament has voted 80 votes to 40 in favour of the
first step towards legalising gay marriage. The process typically
takes several months and allows the public to have their say. There
are three votes that take place in the New Zealand parliament to get
to a final decision.
- All their legislation goes to a committee.
- Yes. The polls show that around two-thirds of New Zealanders
support gay marriage. Tasmania may or may not be the first state in
Australia to legislate for equality in marriage. If it is not, either
South Australia, the ACT or New South Wales could be, and the sky
will not fall in. It will not fall in because legalising same-sex
marriage will not affect most of us at all. Relationships, and
state-sanctioned confirmation of them, between men and women will
continue as usual. If this bill is passed in Tasmania all that will
happen is that people of the same sex will have state backing for
their marriage vows. Is this important? Not to me, and not to most
Tasmanians. But it is important for a small number of Tasmanians in
same-sex relationships who feel they want society's blessing for
their relationship. They say that they want the same recognition as
any man or any woman.
has been a lot of debate about whether this bill is constitutional.
We have seen contrary, and rather confusing, opinions but I
appreciated the advice we were given in a briefing today by the
professor of constitutional law, George Williams. The conclusion was
that there are good arguments on all sides but only seven judges can
give us that answer. We would be guessing at this stage. We have
heard that South Australia is considering similar legislation. New
South Wales is going through a very thorough consultative process and
there are moves in the ACT. Tasmanian legislation is the template for
the development of legislation in those states.
doubt they, too, will be looking at the constitutional issue and no
doubt they are going to hear conflicting opinions. But to reject this
bill on constitutional grounds would be a cop-out.
are conflicting legal opinions, but the only opinion that counts is
that of the High Court. If the High Court must rule on this, so be
it. That is one of the main reasons why we have a High Court.
- That is how it is supposed to work.
Yes. This has been the most polarising community debate since I was
elected to this House two terms ago. Like all such polarisations you
have the extremes on either side of the argument - as we have seen,
they lobby intensively and are unlikely to change their views
whatever they hear. But in the middle you have the majority and I
believe that somebody has done a straw poll and distributed a letter,
which I did not get, and the straw poll showed 80 per cent might be
the figure in the middle.
are people who either do not care much about the issue, or are not
prepared to take sides, even if the swirl of information and opinion
tries to convince them to do so. We in this House have all heard at
length from both sides of the argument. We have all lost count of the
thousands of emails. It has been, and continues to be, a very
stimulating debate - calls are still coming in, as I speak now. This
is the sort of debate our community should have about legislation
they feel strongly about. It is healthy to have such community
discussion - so often I have been at this lectern criticising the
government because we have not had time to allow the community to
debate issues. Particularly with the sex industry legislation, and
the relationships bill, the government says, 'no, we have had
consultation'. I say, 'yes, but the community has not been involved
in the debate'. I believe the community will not be able to point the
finger at the government and say, 'We have not had sufficient time to
debate this issue'.
have seen all types of emails. Some, on either side, have been
repetitive, based on the common format but some have been heartfelt,
individual and very touching. I responded to all of those from my
constituents and some of the thousands of others because I have been
grateful to receive the views from all sections of our community in
the process of making up my own mind about the issue. Some emails
have even resulted in continuing exchanges and I value those
particularly, especially when they represent a conversation with my
I think we have all received some objectionable material, showing the
nasty side of the opposing argument. The material in which this
document came in was anonymous, it was cowardly and certainly does
not help the cause of those opposing same sex marriage. I think
it was distributed to all of us in a plain wrapper. I know the member
for Windermere had a copy because I managed to retrieve his envelope
before it was shredded, to see if I could find out who had sent it.
- There was no indication at all.
- Is that where the envelope got to?
- It was of no use to you because it had no name and no contact in
respect of that information.
- Very inflammatory, derogatory -
- I discarded it, in my own mind, quite quickly because we did not
really want that element in the debate.
mentioned polarisation, the two opposing views, the mass in the
middle. I do not hold strong views either way on the issue of
same sex marriage. I suppose you could put me with the mass in
the middle. I am neither emotionally nor spiritually connected to
like my colleagues, I have to do the best I can in the interests of
my electorate and all Tasmanians on this issue. I therefore took
great interest in the debate and I will be listening to my colleagues
and what they witnessed as their discussions unfold. But I see my
role as reflecting the views of my constituents and the wider
Tasmanian community, tempered with my own values and a sense of what
is right, which has to have some play on why I have been elected in
the first place and re elected six years later.
far as the broader principle is concerned, we are looking at
legislation to allow people of the same sex to establish an
officially sanctioned marriage relationship. It is as simple as that.
The long running and sometimes nasty argument about
homosexuality does not come into it, as far as I am concerned. Many
of those opposed to same sex marriage, however, believe it does.
Some speak of HIV and lifespan issues and so on. Often forgotten is
the fact that sometimes two women are in a lesbian relationship.
the idea of people of the same sex going through a marriage ceremony
seems to have confused some Christians, especially that section of
the Anglican Church who want to stay with the seventeenth century vow
to 'honour and obey'. Who is going to obey whom?
- I didn't say that.
- No, I just said that. The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter
Jensen, who argues that brides must submit to their husbands, may
have to sort that out. Archbishop Peter Jensen, along with the
managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, Mr Jim Wallace,
as we know, have suggested that homosexual men have a shorter
lifespan than heterosexual men. I fail to see what that has to do
with same sex marriage, but it is worth looking at this issue.
Queensland psychologist, Paul Martin, principal psychologist for the
Centre for Human Potential in Brisbane says:
strongly suggests that the inability to marry has a direct connection
with psychological harm through confirmation of underlying negative
beliefs, … adding another layer of challenge for those in long term
committed relationships through a lack of validation.
people are not aware of the causes and existence of the significant
mental/physical health problems of those who are same sex attracted.
problems are strongly linked to issues including:
held beliefs about same sex relationships not being valid
excluded from social institutions which normalize same sex
relationships such as marriage
Homophobia' - negative beliefs including GLBTI are disordered, sick,
Martin says he has 'treated many people whose self esteem and mental
health issues would have been significantly improved if they had
access to the ability to marry their partner'. He says not being able
to marry has for many of his clients increased their 'sense of
defectiveness' and 'hopelessness from a sense that our society
doesn't recognize the most important part of their lives'.
had a briefing from Darren Carr from the Mental Health Council in our
offices in Launceston. Some of the things that stood out for me when
he talked about 'minority stress' was that these lead to the worst
mental outcomes. He talked about stigmatisation and difference from
others. He also talked, which I thought was compelling, about good
research on capacity to be parents and that research showed that
there was no difference. It may be simplistic but imagine if laws
discriminated against people with red hair, for instance, including
forbidding them to marry. Wouldn't their self esteem suffer? I
spoke earlier of the vast number of emails we have received that have
clogged our offices and office systems for so long now. I would like
to quote from some of them. I am not sure of the balance of numbers
for and against but when I met with Dr Andrew Corbett he asked me
about the numbers I had. He was quite shocked when I said, 'I think
it is 50:50 in respect of the representations I've had'. I do not
know how other members have felt but that is not the issue I want to
talk about. I prefer to group the arguments on their merits rather
than numbers. My process was that I would read every email. Anything
that resonated that was a new argument or a compelling case I put to
one side and then reflected on those when I put this speech together.
There is of course a strong Christian element opposing same sex
marriage but I feel that the Christian view is only one of those in
opposition. In selecting some quotes from both sides of the argument
I have tried to show the personal arguments of individuals. I think
you could sum up the mainstream Christian argument with what the
Anglican Diocese of Tasmania has to say:
you will be aware the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania has given strong
support to the elimination of discrimination against gay and lesbian
citizens of this state. We are however concerned about the
legislation which effectively changes the definition of marriage in
Tasmania. We are strongly committed to the current definition which
limits marriage to a union between a man and a woman. The new
legislation, in our opinion, legislates against the true meaning of
marriage and opens opportunity for any definition to fit. It
effectively begins the process of deconstructing the social fabric of
of those against same-sex marriage dismiss the other side's notions
of equality and antidiscrimination. Many who have expressed a view
speak of marriage between a man and a woman as the best way to raise
children. I mentioned my constituent Pastor Andrew Corbett of the
Legana Christian Church. He puts it this way in a special letter - I
am not sure if he distributed it to other members but it certainly
came to me.
is a privilege
not a right.
It is a privilege because it is the best way to raise our most
precious members of our society: children. Every comparative study
between the various household models for raising children has shown
that children raised in a low-conflict, loving, married parent home
always fare best in every criteria (emotionally, psychologically,
academically, socially, physically). Because Marriage is a privilege
it is not owed
to anyone - as all universal
are. This was recently acknowledged by the European Commission of
a married mum and dad is the best basis for raising children, it
rather than mere legislative
(which is what Same-Sex Marriage advocates are demanding.
worth noting that the Marriage Act does not regulate couples
it provides the criteria for individuals
entering into marriage. As such, the entire premise for Same-Sex
Marriage is without foundation because it claims that the Marriage
Act unfairly discriminates against their type of coupling.
theme of marriage between a man and a woman was very strong in most
of those opposing the bill. For example, this email:
am writing to express my concern on this same-sex marriage bill. I am
one who values family and marriage as a union of a man and a woman
and wish to express my opinion to all Tasmanian upper House members.
Virtually every human culture has defined marriage as a union between
a man and a woman and this has stood the test of thousands of years
as the only union that ensures the continuity of our species and the
health and happiness of our children.
theme was that a same-sex union cannot produce a child naturally,
although many would argue that is not necessarily the main aim of
the hetrosexual and the homosexual couple enact out a choice. Only
the hetrosexual union naturally results in the birth of a child. The
child is alive as a product of a remarkable natural union between
their now father and mother. There can be no argument that this is in
fact the origin of the child. The child has a unique connection with
these biological parents which provides a distinct advantage to them
as carers for the child during infancy, childhood and beyond. The
tradition which gives special recognition of blessing to the form of
union called marriage makes sense. We should continue to legally
protect this unique institution in whatever way we are able as it
performs a role of immense value.
opinions against recognition of same-sex marriage see it as the thin
end of some horrific wedge. Here is another quote:
the Marriage Act is changed to accommodate this minority group it
will open a can of worms. What is going to stop a man from wanting to
marry his sister or mother even?
do not see the legislation in that way coming before this House in my
lifetime or perhaps in any other lifetime. Is the sender suggesting
that a gay man would want to marry his sister? Probably not. I get
the sense of that. In every society there is a trend to preserve the
think things are working well as they are. Gay and lesbian people
have the same rights to everything that married people have and I
think that is at it should be. By that I mean we humanise people when
we do not discriminate. Perhaps you may suspect that I therefore
think this last little thing, marriage, should be expanded to include
this minority group. Not so and here are my arguments.
think we should differentiate between how we deal with an individual
and how we set public policy. Public policy needs to be very future
focused. How will things look 10 years from changing the Marriage
could go on about those examples but I would like to turn to this
quote, from Michael and Jenny Harvey:
is pretty simple - as the Bible outlines for the first man and woman:
Genesis 2 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a
helper suitable for him.' Marriage is introduced by God very early in
the garden of Eden and is clearly a union between a man and a woman.
Bible continues with the following where the man says of this woman:
'This is now bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh; she shall be called
"woman" for she was taken out of man. For this reason a man
will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they
will both become one flesh.'
for this reason above, we know that marriage is set aside for that
sacred union between a male and a female.
other members of the House I have been lobbied extensively in person
and attended many public events. Last week I attended a meeting at
the Free Reform Church at Legana in my electorate. They thought they
might get 12 - change that to perhaps 40 - we ended up with 80 people
there. I was treated with warmth and sensitivity. There was a wide
ranging and enlightening discussion. That meeting demonstrates to me
that our community has moved on from confrontation and antagonistic
argument. Whatever the outcome of this issue at this stage, our
community is going to be richer for having this debate. That is how I
that meeting I received this email from Andrew Hidding:
from the spiritual and emotional arguments that weigh heavily on all
sides, there are in my view a few important facts to consider:
original aim of the federal Marriage Act was to give legitimacy to
children. For that reason marriages between some people were not
allowed. The closeness of family relationship is one very important
factor in that regard. A marriage between persons of the same sex
would really be a contradictio
benefits which same sex couples miss out on are all available to
them under other legislation.
3. the outcome
of the vote in our federal parliament does overwhelmingly show that
there is no great majority of Australians who favour change of the
would also like to quote from somebody I respect very much in my
community who is the principal of the Launceston Christian School at
Riverside and I had a meeting with Erik Hofsink and Rolph Vos, who is
the chairman of the board, over a long period of time. Erik wrote to
me, though it was countersigned by Rolph as well, confirming what we
discussed and this was the conclusion in the letter:
Christian school community believes that marriage is founded on the
wonderful fact of sexual difference and its potential for new life.
We further believe that children are best nurtured by a mother and
father. The current sentiment that same sex couples can care for
a family well - just as well as a heterosexual couple - has not for
once considered the consequences for adopted children of the same sex
couples and their basic human right to having a mother and a father.
This will bring endless difficulties for all children around
education in this context.
but most important to us, laws for same sex marriage are not
based on biblical justification. For the millions of Australians who
accept the authority of the Bible as the truth about the origin,
existence and destination of this world/mankind, accepting this
legislation in Tasmania will mark the beginning of the end to
will turn now to the other side of the debate - those supporting this
bill - and they have a range of arguments, some relating to
eliminating discrimination and promoting fairness. Many gave us their
personal stories - their stories about family members unable to marry
those they loved and who wanted to enter into long-term
will try to keep it brief. I had one response from a Launceston
marriage celebrant, Barb Youd.
gives social recognition of long term dedicated relationships which
in turn creates a stable community.
also quotes her son who summarises one of the issues about same sex
marriage. It is put simply but well.
are the ones stuffing up marriage. The Gays that are Gay for sex are
not the ones wanting to get married. It is the Gays that are in a
loving, committed relationship who want to be able to get married.
of those who support the bill have one or more gay children and want
them to be able to marry like their heterosexual children.
husband and I have been married for over 38 years and have raised two
daughters, one an accountant and the other a human rights lawyer.
When they were children we often talked with them about their
futures, what careers they aspired to and the possibility of them
falling in love and getting married. Subsequently both daughters did
fall in love but only one has been able to marry her partner. Our
straight daughter married her husband three years ago in a civil
ceremony conducted by a civil marriage celebrant. Our gay daughter
dearly wishes to marry the love of her life but cannot marry in
Australia because of the inequality enshrined in the Marriage Act.
number of opinions rejected one of the main arguments of those who
opposed the bill - that children are always better off in a
conventional marriage. This quote is from Colin Berry:
wife and I believe that this is a simple matter of fairness and human
rights. We see people who marry and choose not to have children (and
for that matter, people in excellent unmarried relationships who do
have children). There is no logical connection between marriage and
the protection of children. In fact I know children who would be
better off far away from their married parents.
non-religious people, our marriage has nothing to do with religious
beliefs. Rather, it is a commitment made before our families and
community. How dare we deny others the same right?
speak in very heartfelt terms of their wish to marry. This is from Dr
marriage for same sex couples legal in Tasmania would make a huge
difference in my life. To be able to marry the woman I love, who
shares my life, helps care for my children and who is in every way my
partner in life would bring me so much joy. To share that with our
family and friends who accept us as the people we are would be
beautiful and right.
is the parents' relationship that counts, not their sexuality. The
sky has not fallen in because they have children. The children are
just as beautiful as the children from heterosexual relationships.
Not allowing same-sex marriage is not going to prevent these
relationships from happening so why not legislate for a civil
marriage ceremony for those who want this final blessing. It will not
prevent heterosexual couples from being married in church or in civil
people are worried about the future of the gay people. This from
Eamon Gilligan of Howrah:
is extremely important that we ensure future generations of same-sex
attracted young people are not encumbered with the psychological
issues, low self worth and high suicide rates that have plagued
previous generations. I want to point out that while rejecting this
Bill will sadly continue to cause great distress to members of the
Tasmanian community, no one who is against the Same-Sex Marriage Bill
will actually be negatively affected by its passing. Instead,
Tasmania will be making another step towards becoming a truly
inclusive society, incorporating the ideal of a 'fair go'.
has been a lot of discussion about this bill within families. I am
sure that members would have received the message from Noel Frankham
write as a seventh generation member of a large extended rural
Tasmanian family. Our family and close friends reflect normal
contemporary Australian social and cultural profiles including gay
and lesbian people, some of whom have children.
of us admit to being somewhat ambivalent when Premier Giddings and
Minister McKim proposed the same sex marriage bill. However the
paucity of opponent argument has become a topic of family discussions
and encouraged our support for the bill.
one accepts the line of argument advanced by some opponents of
marriage equality, homosexuality affects reproductive organs that gay
and lesbian people cannot and do not have children.
such nonsense, celebrates ignorance, promotes bigotry and prejudice.
Consequently I am moved to write to you seeking assurance that your
decision making is based on facts and fairness - that it adheres to
the long held values of equity that underpin Australia's
extraordinary success as a rich and civil society.
is one also from a young woman doctor:
am writing to express my support for marriage equality. I am a young
doctor, working for DHHS and a straight female. I believe that
marriage equality shouldn't even be an issue. It should have been
allowed years ago. People should be allowed to formalise their
commitment to each other if they wish. Getting married does not
affect anyone, other than the people getting married. So I believe
no one outside of those two people should get a say in the
find the arguments against marriage equality ignorant and lacking any
valid facts to back them up. Logically, it is not going to decrease
the population, as those who will get married, once equality is
available, would not have reproduced, with or with the ability to get
won't make people who may have been straight, gay. Being gay is not a
choice - it is genetic.
will sum up those people who have sent material for the case. This
came from Miss Alison French from Trevallyn in my electorate:
do not let another child grow up thinking or grow up to think there
is something wrong with them just because of their sexuality.
Sexuality is not a mere choice and it is not something that can be
turned off or ignored. Not allowing a loving couple to marry is a
massive breach of morality and in turn sends a very devastating
message to our young people. Every child deserves to feel safe,
accepted for who they are, and secure in their identity. Sending the
right message to children is important for their development and
allowing marriage equality is one right message we can send.
has been a very stimulating and worthwhile community debate. A debate
that I have been proud to be part of, and gratified to listen to as
well. A debate that I could not have properly participated in if I
had been spiritually or emotionally connected to the bill, or if I
declared a set views when it began, because I wanted to hear what
people had to say.
with our debate on this issue, we have had two failed attempts to
pass federal legislation. They were defeated partly because the
Coalition stated a firm view and did not allow a conscience vote.
However, I believe that both bills would have been lost in any case.
But it is worth a brief look at the debate in the Senate. Senator
Doug Cameron said:
about children being disadvantaged by being brought up by same sex
couples, denies the reality of some children facing terrible lives
with heterosexual couples.
Senator John Faulkner said the debate was not really about the value
of marriage, or its role in society. 'It is a debate on the simple
question of whether it is right for a government to deny some of its
citizens access to a secular, government-recognised status on the
basis of the gender of the person they choose to share their life
will not go into the comments by Senator Cory Bernardi on multiple
relationships and bestiality because I think they were worse than
offensive and threatened the logic and good manners of most opposing
also had the move in New South Wales that I want to comment on. There
was a news story last week that talked about a cross-party group of
New South Wales MPs formed to produce a bill on same sex
marriage that will be put to a conscience vote in the state
parliament. The bill to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in New
South Wales will be drawn up by a working party of Liberal, National,
Labor and Greens MPs. New South Wales will follow the lead of states
such as Tasmania and South Australia, in introducing state-based
equality campaigner, Alex Greenwich - we thank him for his
presentation at our briefings today says -
formation of the New South Wales working party is a strong step
forward. This is the first time we have seen such strong, political
cooperation. So that will only help the reform get through parliament
and New South Wales is a state with more same sex couples than
South Wales Premier, Barry O'Farrell, has already said that he will
allow a conscience vote on the issue.
only Liberal member in the group, Bruce Notley-Smith, says that the
new committee will allow for an unpoliticised discussion of same-sex
marriage. He says:
of the reasons why we have set up this group is so we can all sit
down and concentrate and not bicker across party lines and work
cooperatively to get some sort of result.
include the Nationals' Trevor Kahn, the Greens' Cate Faehrmann,
Labor's Penny Sharpe and Sydney Independent, Clover Moore. That could
well be a sensible way of going about this issue. It is an issue
which needs to be out in the public, whatever the outcome. I think
the public debate on this Tasmanian bill has been both healthy and
reading many thousands of words of argument, after having been
lobbied personally over many weeks, I am inclined to support this
bill because it reduces discrimination, shows tolerance and allows a
substantial proportion of the community to enter into the recognised
long-term relationships they want. I support the bill