Speech on Malcolm Turnbull's same sex marriage plebiscite

In Parliament | 15.09.16

The Hon. PENNY SHARPE (16:08): Yesterday in Canberra Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced his Government's bill to send every Australian to the polls to decide whether the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) citizens of Australia can be legally married in our own country.

How has it come to this? What sort of country have we become where our elected representatives are willing to force a minority to fight in a public campaign to be treated equally before the law? And even after going through this absurd, cruel and ridiculous process this highly discriminated against group in our community is not guaranteed a change in the law.

What sort of country have we become when the conservative members of the dominant party throw their own beliefs about the Westminster system of representative government out the window to advance a conservative social agenda and then dress it up as some sort of best practice approach to democracy? What sort of country have we become where our Parliament is considering a publically funded debate that will suggest that the relationships and families of a group of our citizens are less worthy, deficient and morally wrong? And this is trumpeted as the fastest way to eliminate the current discrimination. There have been so many words written about this issue, so much air time given to it. Maybe it is time to just stop and listen. We should listen to Matthew Robinson, who said:

Dear decision makers of the country I love,

In a dream last night, I stood before my high school principal and a group of teachers that had been assembled to decide whether same-sex marriag e would be legalised in Australia. I told them I was already married, in New Zealand in May of this year. I showed them the wedding photographs and pleaded that they acknowledge the marriage was legitimate. Then I wept openly in front of them.

I grew up wa tching the bowling ball advertisements that warned, or more accurately terrified, the viewer about the AIDS   epidemic. By the time I was twelve I had come to believe that if two men kissed, they died instantly. I believed that what I would eventually come t o know as love, would kill me.

I need the Australian parliament to do its job, which is to look after those who are the most marginalised among us, no matter who they are. When I walk down the street holding my husband's hand, every time we pass someone, e very time, we come out all over again. What will they think? Worse, what will they say? Worse still, what might they do? To know, by its idling, by its reticence, that my government is complicit in that fear, makes me weep for the child who watched those b owling ball ads, and for all the children now watching the ever so vaguely dehumanising discussion surrounding the LGBTQI community.

We should listen to my friend Aram, who stated:

I'm 33 years old. I'm a pretty resilient human being.

I survived being quee r in a conservative family—being ex-communicated from the religion (and community) of my childhood, being cut off from my family.

I've been profiled in the media and had public commentators share their opinions on my identity, and I fought in court to get my identity recognised. I've engaged in national and international advocacy, I've worked in mental health and other health and social support services.

And yet this morning I feel under attack and it feels crap. The world doesn't feel very nice and I don't feel particularly good in it.

To those elected to office I exhort you — do your job, protect and uphold human rights, govern for all Australians, and stop using real life humans as tools for political point scoring.

We should listen to the kids in LGBTI families. Jesse said this week:

It is going to be damaging for young children who have gay and lesbian parents. It is going to be damaging to people who think they are going to be gay or lesbian. They are going to be thinking, is something wrong with me, is s omething wrong with my family. And they don't deserve this.

We should listen to LGBTI parents who are frustrated, angry and fearful of the impact on their children as a result of the public debate happening now. Every LGBTI parent is concerned about how they can protect and shield their children from this divisive debate if faced with pamphlets at train stations, giant billboards and a public discussion where everyone is forced to pass judgement on their family and the people they love. We should make space to reflect on those who cannot speak out; those for whom being LGBTI is not something they admit to their families, their friends, their workmates, their schoolmates, their teammates, their church or even themselves.

Being gay, or lesbian or bisexual or transgender or intersex or indeed queer is a human trait that people do not often share with their family, schoolmates, church or neighbourhood. It is not always accepted and it can be dangerous to do so. How have we come to the point where our own democracy and some of our own elected representatives think that asking the majority of Australians to stand in judgement of the relationships, lives and families of LGBTI people in this country is a reasonable idea? It is not. The plebiscite must be blocked.

HANSARD - NSW Legislative Council, 15 September 2016