Senator SMITH (Western Australia) (11:27): I rise to add my views to the debate on the Marriage Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2012 and its desire to extend the definition of ‘marriage’ to include couples in same-sex relationships. My views are my own and have been formed after years of discussion, observation and careful consideration. I accept that to some the idea of an openly gay man rejecting a proposition to extend the definition of ‘marriage’ to same-sex relationships seems unusual or counterintuitive. In response, I say that it speaks to the often overlooked fact that opinion on the issue of extending the definition of ‘marriage’ is heavily divided even among gay and lesbian Australians. I do not doubt that there are many gay and lesbian Australians and their families and friends that support the legislation, but there are also others who do not….
The debate on same-sex marriage has been a complex and controversial one. .. It has been controversial also because many have confused the religious institution of marriage with marriage as a civil institution. It is marriage as a civil institution that should demand the primary concentration and deliberations of parliamentarians. I believe any future deliberation by the parliament on matters regarding the legal treatment of same-sex couples should make as its focus the task of creating a starker distinction between marriage as a civil institution and its role for some as a religious institution.
My primary opposition to this proposal is born from my strong regard and faith in the cautionary, conservative and traditional approach to these matters. As I have said previously, I distrust sentiments and actions that seek to dismiss, modify or reject as relics our institutions and customs—institutions and customs that have evolved to serve our community well. I believe that cautious and considered change is critical if we are to bring about stability and continuity for our community.
I reject the suggestion of marriage equality. Marriage equality has been a slogan; it has been a campaign. The claim to equality ignores the widely accepted fact that marriage is an institution that has a long and well-accepted definition—a definition that is heavily laden with cultural meaning and values crafted by custom and by law over the years. It is an institution that has a common and well-understood meaning in Australia. I dispute the commentary in this place and others suggesting that the majority of Australians are ready to extend the meaning of marriage to same-sex relationships. I also dispute the view that the inability to utilise the Marriage Act restricts in any fundamental manner the quality of life experiences of gay and lesbian Australians.
The case for equality for gay and lesbian Australians was a battle too-long fought. It must be acknowledged that on the substantive matters of equality in Australia, gay and lesbian Australians can live at law without discrimination….
Let me share with you the view of at least one other gay Australian who has challenged the current marriage equality movement. This comment was recorded in April this year in OUTinPerth, a community newspaper based in Perth, my home town. It said: The other thing that’s irritating I suppose about it is that it has become this orthodoxy within the community. Dissenting voices are not allowed, it’s just assumed that if you’re gay you’re for it, as it’s clearly a human right – which it’s not. The article goes on to what I regard as the most important, but all too often forgotten, critical element in the debate when it says: The right is to have our relationship recognised equally by the State; the right is not to marriage.
….By not agreeing to same-sex marriage, I am not choosing to endorse discrimination against my fellow gay and lesbians Australians or to be disrespectful to their domestic relationships, or to lessen the value of their commitments, companionship, love and unions. Instead, for me, it is an honest acknowledgement, of the special and unique characteristics of the union described as ‘marriage’. http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;db=CHAMBER;id=chamber%2Fhansards%2F2e9571fe-03fd-411b-9e11-6c9629474f79%2F0066;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansards%2F2e9571fe-03fd-411b-9e11-6c9629474f79%2F0000%22