Dr Anne ALY (Cowan): Australia is known around the world as the land of the fair go; we’re pretty famous for that. The responsibility of each parliamentarian and government is to extend that fair go to people and communities that were not offered it when we began our time in this place. I realise that I’m one of many in a very long line of speakers to lend their voice to this debate on the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017, and I must say I’m very proud to do so. For some of us it’s been personal and for some of us it’s been political. But, for all of us, it’s significant. I feel honoured to be in this place at this point in history.
Though the process was shrouded by the politics of those opposite and the survey was unnecessary and hurtful and divisive—it was an utter failure of leadership by the Prime Minister, who put aside his duty of care over LGBTIQ citizens in Australia—the final vote for marriage equality was a significant victory for the fair go. The ‘yes’ vote is a victory for LGBTI Australians who have fought so long for their love and their commitment to be recognised as equal to any other. It’s a victory for their children and families, who have shown incredible strength in the face of a divisive and often bitter battle. It’s a victory for the allies, friends and supporters who spent months, years and decades fighting for this change to come. This ‘yes’ vote is a victory for Australia. It confirms what millions of Australians already knew: LGBTI Australians are equal, their love is equal, and recognising their love under law is fair. I now speak directly to the LGBTI community in my seat of Cowan: know that I stand here with you and for you. Your Cowan community overwhelmingly voted yes, and I’m proud to reflect that vote in our federal parliament. And if you are planning a wedding, I do like to dance and eat cake—sometimes at the same time!
I was not elected to represent people of colour across Australia. Though many—especially some who write into my office—think otherwise, I am not a representative of the ethnic communities or of different religious groups. But when these survey results are being used as yet another in a long list of issues painting ethnic and migrant communities as ‘the other’, or somehow un-Australian, I won’t stay silent. I won’t stay silent while the hypocrisy of those like Andrew Bolt and Mark Latham is given a platform. The ‘no’ campaign spent a great deal of time and resources campaigning to areas of high migrant communities, only to use those results to say that ethnic and migrant communities are at odds with Australian values and the Australian way of life. It is hypocrisy of the highest order and does a great disservice to the diversity and complexity of Australia’s ethnic and migrant communities. We are not homogeneous.
I’d like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to LGBTI people of colour across Australia—those who have had to suffer double discrimination in a society that is stacked against them. For those LGBTI people of colour, this journey has often been twice as long, with twice as many obstacles. But we stand here today with you and for you. I would also like to pay tribute to Democracy in Colour, an organisation devoted to mobilising ethnic and migrant communities for progressive causes. These campaigners have been on the front lines of the marriage equality debate, and I thank them for their work.
I said in my first speech in this place:
… we should not allow important discussions about our future to degenerate into a competitive agenda of rights, for all rights are worth pursuing and worth pursuing with vigour.
I stand by those words today. I firmly believe in the freedom of religion and belief. I firmly believe that the freedom of religion and belief is no less and no more important than the freedom to live without discrimination. But I do not accept that the freedom of religion and belief extends to the manifestation of that religion or belief when it infringes on the rights of others to live free from discrimination. We cannot, and must not, accept the winding back of antidiscrimination laws that have served our society so well for decades. We cannot remove one layer of discrimination and simply add, or replace it with, another. We cannot allow our LGBTI friends, family members, colleagues and comrades to be turned away at the bakery, the florist or the supermarket just because of who they love. That’s not the Australia I know.
The fact that we are having this discussion at all underscores that, though we rightly celebrate an overwhelming victory for the LGBTI community, we know this is not the final frontier to fairness for LGBTI Australians. Whether we look at health and mental health services, bullying in schools, discrimination in our laws, harassment on the street or the stacked disadvantage facing the trans community and LGBTI people of colour, we know that there is a very long road to fairness ahead of us. But with the passing of marriage equality we take a giant leap forward. With that, I hope that LGBTI Australians can walk a little bit taller, a little bit prouder and a little bit louder in the steps to come, because I’ll be walking with you.
The week before last, I marched in Perth’s Pride parade alongside Rainbow Labor and the Premier, Mark McGowan. As I was leaving, I was stopped by a group of school students who had also been marching in the parade. They came from different electorates in Western Australia. We smiled at each other and we hugged, and they told me just how much it meant to them for me to be marching on that day. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose marching in a parade is a small gesture of solidarity, but to these young people it meant more than I could ever fathom. It served as a gentle reminder to me that the fight for equality is timeless and that it is carried forward not by my generation, but by generations to come. It reminded me that what we are doing in this House matters. It matters today and it will matter for the tomorrows to come. So, on behalf of those students and on behalf of the LGBTI community in my electorate, I thank the ‘yes’ campaign, and I thank those in this House and in the Senate for what they have done in sending a clear message that we care: we care today and we will care tomorrow.
Chamber House of Representatives on 6/12/2017 Item BILLS – Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 – Second Reading Speaker: Aly, Anne, MP