Ms KEAY (Braddon): I have a choice, a choice that I am able to make at any time of my adult life. That is a choice to marry. I have chosen at this point not to do so. That is my personal choice. But what we will pass this week, the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017, is to ensure that every Australian has that same choice, a choice that has been denied to same-sex couples for far too long. My electorate of Braddon voted yes—56 per cent—for this choice and for equality. I am proud of my electorate. It has come a long way to demonstrate in this way that it is a progressive and inclusive community. We should never have had this survey, this harmful survey, to tell us exactly what we already knew. But for Braddon—or Tasmania, for that matter—this has not always been the case, and we should never ever go back.
In respect of gay rights, in the late 1990s, Tasmania was known internationally as ‘Bigots’ Island’ in response to a period of significant social and political turmoil and for having the harshest penalties in the Western world for homosexual activity, until Tasmania finally became the last jurisdiction to repeal such terrible laws, the repeal passing the Legislative Council by one vote in 1997. Braddon, it’s fair to say, was probably one of the most homophobic areas in the country. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, our history was marked by explosive anti-gay rallies, reinforcing this perception. These rallies were ill-informed, bigoted and discriminatory.
But, out of these rallies, exceptional people stood up and fought back with strength and determination to change this view of Tasmanians and Tasmania. One of the first people was a young man from my electorate on the north-west coast, Rodney Croome. Supported by his wonderful mother, Bev, who I have had the privilege to doorknock—she’s a delight—Rodney has led the way for LGBTIQ people in Tasmania for decades. I ask the House to join with me and pay tribute to Rodney for his tireless dedication to removing discrimination and promoting equality, and he’s here in the House with us right now. He is a true hero, not just to the LGBTIQ community but to all of us. I am sure Rodney’s journey, and that of all other activists, from those dark days in the 1980s and 1990s to today has been more difficult than I could ever imagine. We should all admire Rodney’s tenacity, determination and drive to right this and many other wrongs on this long road to marriage equality.
Many people in my community over this long journey have been brought together rather than divided. The first one of these was Dr Tim Flanagan, from Smithton. Dr Flanagan was the only GP in Smithton, and, when an anti-gay rally was held in that community in the late 1980s, Dr Flanagan stood at the rally in solidarity with those being persecuted. From this a group called HUG, Heterosexuals Unafraid of Gays, was formed. This group was the first of many community-based organisations to be developed in my region.
In the 1990s, under the leadership of former Devonport mayor Mary Binks, an organisation called Working it Out was formed as a support group for young people negotiating their sexuality. Some 20 years later, Working it Out is now a statewide organisation funded by the Tasmanian government. Other groups include the Diversity Group, from Don College, and Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG. I want to pay tribute to Peter and Mary Moore from PFLAG for their ongoing support for and dedication to removing discrimination so their son Robbie, if he so chooses, can marry, just like his siblings.
I also want to pay tribute to Laine Shoebridge-Harris for his tireless work in support of young people from our region. Laine runs a drop-in centre for LGBTIQ people in the city of Burnie. He funds this himself and has lived a life-supporting people dealing with the discrimination and hurt that they have faced just because of who they are. Communities, particularly in regional Australia, need more Laines. He is a man with a huge heart and endless compassion.
And now, in the town of Ulverstone, we have pride events. Annie Whitehead from TasPride Tasmania has organised annual pride events in Ulverstone, where people come together to celebrate the diversity we have in our community.
I also want to acknowledge Jason Campbell and Alisha Bull from the MUA for hosting campaign events from their offices. Reverend Ian Carmichael from the Penguin Baptist church was the first member of the clergy to offer an apology to the LGBTIQ community in Tasmania. I attended a cross-denominational congregation of like-minded Christians organised by Ian earlier this year to hear Layne speak of his life and to share prayers for those in our community who were struggling during the postal survey. This gave me and others hope. Grant Park and his mother, Tina, from Cafe Europa in Burnie hosted many ‘yes’ campaign events. However, Grant and his business were a target of fear and hatred during the survey, just because Grant placed rainbow flags along the facade of his business. Disturbingly, Grant received threats to burn down his business and kill his dog. He feared for his safety and that of his staff. How did Grant respond? He hung more flags.
We should not gloss over or underestimate the damage this postal survey has caused. Whilst many in this place have celebrated the opportunity for people to have their say, I have always sided on the view that it is wrong for a nation to pass judgement on the identity, the ability to love and the status of one’s relationships just because of who they are. Should we pose a national survey to judge whether the Prime Minister should be married to Lucy? It sounds absurd, I know, but this survey was just as absurd, in my view. The result was just as we had expected, at a price that could have been expended elsewhere, but at a larger price on the wellbeing of so many Australians.
Yesterday, disturbing data on the impact of the postal survey was released showing that more than 80 per cent of LGBTIQ people and 60 per cent of their allies found the marriage equality debate considerably or extremely stressful. Seventy per cent of LGBTIQ people said they avoided being with people in general during the survey debate and verbal and physical assaults more than doubled in the three months after the announcement of the postal survey process, compared to the previous six months. I was disturbed and disgusted that the Prime Minister, in his contribution on this bill, said that this was the most remarkable political event in his lifetime. There is nothing remarkable about passing judgement on the love of others in such a public and hurtful way, knowing and having been warned that this process would come at a price to those who have to live through these judgements, the comments and the discrimination, particularly to those without strong networks and support.
I have never, ever thought any other way than to support marriage equality. I have never questioned it. Equality is part of my DNA. It is who I am. I have, however, questioned why others do not support it. I wanted to understand the reason they didn’t. I had the opportunity to do so while working for a state MP during the debate to legalise same-sex marriage in Tasmania. I read many emails and letters opposing this change. I tried very hard to understand the logic. Some explanations were horrid and abhorrent, and just so wrong. Other reasons for opposition were based in faith, something so intrinsic to a person that I had and continue to have respect for, and I acknowledge that those with strong religious beliefs cannot support same-sex marriage for this reason only.
I will be voting yes. I will not be supporting any further amendments that seek to legalise new ways, new reasons to discriminate. Would I have drafted this bill before us in this way? No. I believe it is a compromise to provide some exclusions for religious civil celebrants. Any more exclusions for others and for other reasons will create new ways to discriminate, and we will never achieve true equality.
When I first came into parliament, I wanted my contribution in this place to ensure my children will live in a society that is not just tolerant of others, but is inclusive and celebrates diversity, based on the fundamental principle of equality. We will go some way to achieving that this week. Now we need to continue to move in that direction.
Chamber House of Representatives on 6/12/2017 Item BILLS – Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 – Second Reading Speaker: Keay, Justine, MP