Australian senate debates marriage plebiscite

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The Turnbull government’s legislation for a plebiscite on marriage equality has reached the Australian senate with a long list of politicians lining up to speak about the proposal.

Special Minister of State Scott Ryan told parliament that the suggestion that the debate around the plebiscite would be intemperate

He says the prospect of “intemperate debate” should not be an argument against the plebiscite.

Senator Ryan said that opponents of the plebiscite were endorsing a prolongation of the debate about marriage equality by not supporting the government’s plan.

Arguing that the public should be able to debate to effect of same sex couples being allowed to wed, Senator Ryan said politicians should not be able to declare a topic “out of bounds” on the grounds they do not trust people to talk about it sensibly.

Speaking against the motion to pass the legislation Labor’s Senator Penny Wong (pictured) said the debate over marriage equality should be about progress, not process.

“Marriage has endured precisely because it has evolved and adapted to change,”  Senator Wong said.

Senator Wong, who is one of the few LGBTI members of parliament said that the LGBTIQ community was justifiably concerned about the public discussion the plebiscite would generate.

“For gay and lesbian Australians this hate speech is not abstract, it is real.” Senator Wong said.

Senator Wong said the defeat of the plebiscite should not delay the parliament’s ability to move forward on marriage equality.

Western Australian Liberal senator Dean Smith, who opposes the plebiscite, outlined that his opposition is based on the unusual precedent that the process would set.

“Do we really want to be the first generation of modern parliamentarians who effectively say that we are not capable of resolving difficult issues?” Senator Smith said.

“Because in contracting out our responsibility as legislators, that is effectively what we are doing. And after doing that just even once, how do we look our electors in the eye again and ask them to place their trust in our judgment on future issues?

“If we set a precedent of holding a public vote on a policy question, then we will come under pressure to do so more and more frequently, particularly on issues which give rise to strong personal ethic or religious considerations.”

Janet Rice from The Greens, whose partner is transgender, spoke about her personal experience – saying that her marriage did not become any less when her partner transitioned.

“We know that our same-sex marriage is just as important and valid and deep and wonderful and loving as our heterosexual one was.” Senator Rice shared.

“People’s human rights should not be subject to a popular vote.

“It is people’s lives and people’s wellbeing which is at stake here, who stand to be harmed by a harmful and divisive debate.” Senator Rice said.

Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm told parliament it was time for gay and lesbian Australians to “harden up”.

“You may not want to accept it, but homophobes already have a voice and guess what, they’ll continue to have a voice.” Senator Leyonhjelm.

The debate was adjourned and will continue in the future.

OIP Staff


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